12 November, 1999
CULLEN CONFUSED AND CONFUSING
"I wouldn't like to think that Dr Cullen would be deliberately deceitful about such an important issue as ACC policy costs, so I can only assume he is confused when he talks about spending in this area," Accident Insurance Minister Murray McCully said today.
"He is certainly confusing the public.
"Dr Cullen reckons that going back to lump sum compensation would be cost neutral to the Crown.
"That is just not possible.
"Cover for students, children and retired New Zealanders, for example, is funded by the Crown through the ACC Non-earners Account. So presumably students, children and older New Zealanders wouldn't be covered by Labour's lump sum policy.
"He's keeping very quiet about that. Or maybe he means that someone else would pick up the tab. That should make some eyes water too because I suspect that it would be employers again carrying the can.
"Official costings show that lump sums would cost around $144 million. Dr Cullen's mate Jim Anderton reckons lump sums would cost more like $400 million. Dr Cullen has some explaining to do.
"He also needs to explain Labour's plans in relation to sickness.
"In July when they launched their ACC policy, Ms Dyson said they would "adjust the sickness or invalid's benefit system over time to match ACC entitlements". Now Dr Cullen is joining his colleague Ruth Dyson in saying that Labour does not intend to extend ACC cover to illness in direct contradiction to his party's own policy.
"Dr Cullen may have overlooked that this is Labour Party policy in doing his sums, but I have not. We're talking around $11 million extra a week to bring the sickness benefit up to 80% of the average wage. But since this is not on their list of costings, it is either on their B list or their C list.
"If this policy isn't going to cost us any more, then Dr Cullen can only be planning to reduce entitlements across the board to pay for it.
"Dr Cullen would know about that - that's what he was planning when he was last a Minister, back in 1990 with his Rehabilitation and Incapacity Bill," Mr McCully said.