$2m extra funding in Budget for ACC policy advice

The Government allocated $2 million of extra funding in Thursday's Budget to help the Department of Labour provide advice on part-privatising ACC.

ACC Minister Dr Nick Smith said the extra funding allowed "further analysis" of the benefits of competition in the work account.

"This is in line with National's 2008 election policy which stated it would investigate opening up the work account to competition and choice," Dr Smith said.

Total funding for the department's monitoring and policy work will now be $4.7 million for the 2010-11 year.

"This increase in funding is necessary to enable the Department of Labour to provide high-quality policy advice on ACC that the Government requires," Dr Smith said.

Dunedin ACC lawyer Peter Sara said he "smelt a rat" in the "staggering" increase.

The Department of Labour, ACC, and Treasury were all stacked with senior policy advisers, who should be able to provide it in-house.

The existing budget should not need to nearly double to obtain the advice, he said.

"I can't help but think it's jobs for the boys."

Outside consultants looked set for a windfall from the massive increase in funding, he said.

Denise Powell, president of Otago Acclaim, an ACC claimant support group, said beefed-up funding for policy advice was another sign privatisation was on its way.

"What the Government is doing is allocating more money to cement their desire to open the ACC scheme to competition.

"We are under no illusion that this has been the intention all along and this is just another way of ensuring part of our world-class accident scheme is sold off to the highest bidder."

Mrs Powell said the work account was the first step towards full privatisation. It was the easiest and most profitable part of the scheme to pick off first for privatisation.

"The only winners will be the insurance companies, certainly not the injured people of New Zealand."

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz


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