Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:23): So my question is for the Minister for Workplace Safety, and it relates to the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013. The act often requires injured workers to hire legal representation and regularly does not operate in the employee’s favour. For instance, for those who want to access a new, more effective treatment option to improve their illness or injury, the worker or their legal team has to provide strong clinical evidence that this treatment will actually treat their physical or mental injuries. To my disbelief, and despite the Department of Veterans Affairs having their own dog program for post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) sufferers, this includes specially trained psychiatric assistant dogs to support PTSI. Minister, has any consideration been given to changing the definition of a medical service or a personal and household service in the workplace injury act to include newer, more effective medicines and treatment options for injured employees?
Thanks, Minister. I look forward to that information and hopefully some improvements. You may recall me speaking about the late Ron Fenton, who had Yogi as his support dog. Ron appealed a WorkCover case where it was determined that Yogi was not to be covered by WorkCover due to not being an approved treatment option for PTSI. Victoria Police’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett, has a lot to answer for regarding this, but the workplace injury act also did not do Ron any favours. When Ron won his claim, it was hailed a victory and a precedent. Unfortunately it has not created a precedent, with WorkCover continually trying to rule that psychiatric assistance dogs are not a suitable treatment option despite mounting evidence proving otherwise. According to WorkSafe’s own website, primary mental injury claims take on average 27 days to determine. This is in contrast to just seven days for physical injury claims. Minister, I would like to know why it takes reportedly around nine months for those accessing WorkCover for psychiatric assistance dogs to access compensation.