After the level of corruption and incompetence demonstrated by the Perrottet Government, Labor's chances of a state election victory should be more obvious, writes investigations editor Ross Jones.
BY NOW, NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns should be holding Premier Dominic Perrottet in an inescapable half-nelson, cheek squashed firmly into the turnbuckle, crowd baying for more, mercy the only way out for a humbled opponent.
But he doesn’t. Not even close.
Instead, his opponent now stands on the top rope, in a perfect position to execute a “diving hurricanrana”, a move which causes its proponents to suffer long-term knee injuries — but at this stage of the game, who cares?
These are just some component parts of the hurricanrana. Worry about paying for the knee operations later.
When it comes to going for the political kill, NSW Labor is simply inept.
Formed in 2015 by “poles and wires” Mike Baird, icare is a public financial corporation and is the sole workers' compensation insurer in NSW. Its board and CEO are appointed by the NSW Treasurer. That gives the NSW Treasurer a lot of control.
According to law expert Peter Little:
‘icare is a NSW Government agency that provides insurance and care services to statutory authorities and people with injuries under various compensation schemes. This includes the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer, providing workers compensation to more than 326,000 employers and 3.6 million workers in NSW.’
The icare website states:
‘The workers insurance system is designed to help you get back to full participation in work and life, with a range of benefits to support your recovery at work.’
Things apparently started well.
In 2018, three years into the project, then-CEO John Nagle wrote:
Three years in, we have started to realise our vision and deliver improvements for our customers. We’ve kept employer premiums steady for three years straight. We’ve opened our doors to our customers who can now contact us directly, 24/7, in a way that suits them. We’ve cut red tape across our schemes and severely injured workers and road users now have control over the type and level of treatment and care they receive. We’ve also upped our offering for builders and government agencies, providing more information and services than ever before. We are on track to deliver more than $200 million per annum in operational and provider savings.
But under the surface, things were not so rosy.
After Perrottet became NSW Treasurer in January 2017, the icare wheels developed a bad case of the corrupt/incompetent wobbles.
Perrottet's Wikipedia page says:
‘A combined investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and ABC TV's Four Corners found that icare had underpaid as many as 52,000 injured workers by up to $80 million and that the organisation was close to collapse.’
These aren’t just numbers, these are NSW workers injured, physically or mentally, while doing their jobs. Their lives turned upside down, all suffering pain, many facing the ends of their lives as they knew it.
And who oversaw this debacle?
‘An internal note among senior figures in the NSW Treasury in 2018 raised a concern that “a direct line to [Perrottet] means icare often bypasses Treasury”.’
The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
‘Retired senior EY partner and actuary Peter McCarthy, who spent 35 years advising governments on workers' compensation, was scathing in his assessment of the current state of the system. “All these people have their snouts in the trough. It's a disaster. Unmitigated disaster.”’
One of the biggest snouts was Perrottet himself who exploited his captive insurer for personal political gain.
In 2020, it was revealed two of Perrottet’s ministerial staff were on the icare payroll.
One of these, American Ed Yap, had been working for various U.S. Republican senators before joining Perrottet at the expense of injured NSW workers:
‘Although icare took overpaying his salary from August 2017, he was at all times a senior policy advisor working for Perrottet. The Treasurer has tried to pass this salary arrangement off as an administrative error for which there is no paperwork.’
As reported in The Mandarin:
‘Government insurance agency icare spent more than $700,000 for American policy adviser Edward Yap to be hired and seconded to the New South Wales treasurer’s office, documents have shown.’
Nigel Freitas, the Treasurer’s chief of staff, handily fell on his sword:
‘That revelation led to the resignation of Nigel Freitas, the Treasurer’s chief of staff, who blamed the issue on an “administrative oversight”.’
This is what engaging Right-wing American political operatives off-the-books is called these days.
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, most of it a muddy, turgid slop. Communities destroyed, ministers resigning, the cloud that is Gladys Berejiklian, the welcomed seeping ingress of Right-wing Christians, the “women problem” — pages could be filled with this NSW Government’s malfeasance and incompetence.
Sportsbet has Labor as a shoo-in but experience says a lot of political punters should stick to the track.
According to The Poll Bludger:
As a low-key campaign reaches its conclusion, Labor is reportedly confident, though not necessarily of a majority in their own right.
After opening with a barrage of results from Newspoll, Resolve Strategic, Freshwater Strategy and Roy Morgan, the New South Wales State Election has been marked by complete silence on the public polling front. Nor has the campaign had much to offer in the way of excitement, beyond the usual procession of quickly forgotten promises and social media controversies involving obscure candidates.
Icare alone should do for Opus Dei.
Less than a week before the Election, things aren’t clear. Against this Government, they should be crystal.
Ross Jones is IA investigations editor and the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. Follow Ross on Twitter @rpzjones_fin.
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