I'm moving to Australia. From what I read of their WorkCover laws, the voices in my head could make me a very wealthy man. A woman who filed a claim for tinnitus she says was caused by excess use of her Blackberry has received $1.2 million in compensation over the last 5 years. Apparently she “received her settlement and ongoing payments because of psychological workplace stress after the incident.”

Another man reportedly sustained injury to his finger on his non-dominant hand five years ago. He did not report the incident for months, but has “since received workers compensation, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, pilates, psychological and psychiatric treatment, holistic treatment and a gym program”. Authorities say that his benefits are valued at $400,000.

That is one wicked injured finger.

I am not sure exactly how you do Pilates for a finger. Perhaps there is a move called “The One Finger Circle” – I don't know.

These stories were pointed out by Australian Finance Minister Greg Pearce, whose office provided them to show why the workers compensation system in that country needs reform. Pearce's office calls the WorkCover laws antiquated, saying that over $440 million has been spent on medical services for people injured more than three years ago who are deemed fit to work. He has indicated to Parliament that the deficit for WorkCover increased by $1 Billion in the first 6 months of last year.

The thing I find most interesting is Mr. Pearce's repeated use of the word “scheme” to describe WorkCover. He says “"It’s vital that action is taken to reform the scheme”, and uses phrases like “return to work schemes“ and “improved management of the scheme”. While the word scheme can mean, “a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect”, many in this country would more likely identify with the definition of “make plans in a devious way or with intent to do something illegal or wrong.”

It could just be a psychological ploy by the minister to urge people in Parliament to action, similar to Nancy Pelosi's line “We have to pass this bill so we can see what is in it”.

I just love a surprise.

But as far as reform in Australia goes, I hope they don't move too terribly soon. I recently stubbed my toe while writing this column, and changes to the system may interfere with my newly developed plans to move (way) south for my early retirement……

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