In most countries, accident insurance is big business. Insurers and lawyers make billions off premiums, claims, and court cases but many people don’t actually get any cover if they are injured. The Third Labour Government set up ACC to ensure everyone would have cover if they were injured. It also freed up the court system for more important things. Studies show ACC provides top-notch cover and is cost-effective.
Of course, the insurance companies lost a great money spinner and have wanted it back ever since. So, they have donated heavily to National to get ACC privatised. National did that in its dying days in 1999 but Labour reversed privatisation in 2000 just in time, as one of the major workplace insurance providers, HIH, later collapsed owing $1 billion. Privatisation of ACC remained a policy into the 2005 election, when the insurance industry gave National $1 million. National and the insurance industry agreed to keep the policy secret. But this memo leaked.
So, what’s their policy now? The hints are privatisation is still on the cards. National is still in secret talks with big business about policy. In recent days, both Bill English and Pansy Wong have been quoted talking about wanting â€˜competition’. Allowing private companies to compete with ACC would see the insurers siphon off the most profitable, low-risk businesses and workers and put the principle of universal cover in jeopardy. But, hey, at least the insurers will make big bucks.
There would be no waiting until the last minute this time, either. Having learnt their lesson from 1999, National would rush through privatisation at the start of their term this time in an effort to make it harder to reverse later.