The former Minister for Industrial Relations, John Rau, was required pursuant to section 203(1) of the Return to Work Act 2014 (the Act) to cause a review of the Act and its administration and operation to be conducted on the expiry of 3 years from its commencement. Although the Act commenced on 1 July 2015, it was part-proclaimed on 4 December 2014 to allow preparatory work to be carried out before the commencement of the Return to Work Scheme.
Therefore on 14 November 2017, the former Minister for Industrial Relations appointed the Hon. John Mansfield AM QC to conduct an independent review. Section 203(3) of the Act required the review to be completed within 6 months, with the results of the review to be embodied in a written report.
On 4 June 2018, the report titled the Independent Review of the Return to Work Act 2014 (the Report) was delivered to me.
In accordance with section 203(4) of the Act, I have caused a copy of the Report to be laid before both Houses of Parliament within 12 sitting days after receiving the Report.
The Report addresses the major issues arising in the first years of the Act’s operation and contains 20 recommendations. In particular, the Hon. John Mansfield AM QC has overall concluded that:
‘the experience in the RTW Scheme generally compares favourably to the WRC Scheme, notwithstanding that the RTW Scheme faces several challenges relating to the achievement of its primary object and the other objectives set out in section 3 of the RTW Act.
The statistical data and other information I reviewed indicates that the RTW Scheme is still in a transitional phase. There is no warrant for comprehensive change at this point in time, I have not recommended an overhaul of the dispute resolution process, the determination of medical questions or any great expansion or reduction in the benefit package available to workers.’
One of the recommendations recommends that consideration be given to amendments of the Act if the decision in Mitchell is upheld by the Supreme Court. Given the time that it could take for the Supreme Court decision to be delivered, the Government has not taken a position on this recommendation or any of the other recommendations at this stage.
The Marshall Liberal Government will consult widely with stakeholders on the recommendations before determining its position.
I will return to this place and update the Parliament as to the Government’s position once consultation, and other matters such as the Mitchell case, have concluded.