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Chairperson's report

Photo of Seacare Chairperson, Barry Sherriff

Barry Sherriff, Chairperson

It gives me great pleasure to present this report to the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon Christian Porter MP, and the Australian Parliament, on the operations of the Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority (Seacare Authority) for the year ending 30 June 2019.

I would like to acknowledge the valuable contributions made by all Members during the reporting period.

Strategic focus

As required by section 35 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), the Seacare Authority developed, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, a Corporate Plan for 2018–19. The Seacare Authority Corporate Plan was developed in line with section 16E of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014. The Seacare Authority has also worked closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to progress the strategies and priorities outlined in the joint occupational health and safety plan 2019–2022 (OHS Plan). This included setting priorities under that OHS Plan for the 2018–2019 financial year.

Further information regarding activities and performance against the Corporate and OHS Plans throughout 2018–19 is in Chapter 2.

Exemptions by own motion

The Full Federal Court of Australia’s decision in late December 2014, in the case of Samson Maritime Pty Ltd v Noel Aucote [2014] FCAFC 182 (Samson v Aucote), provided an interpretation on the coverage of the scheme that was significantly broader than the way that scheme coverage had been previously understood and applied. That is, that the scheme applied to all employees (as defined under the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 (Seafarers Act)) of a trading, financial or foreign corporation.

During 2018–19, the Seacare Authority reissued the exemptions previously granted by its own motion in 2018 to vessels that have been brought into the scheme because of the Samson v Aucote decision.

Further information on the changes to the scheme is contained in Chapter 1 of the report.

Mental health workshop

As part of the Seacare Authority’s commitment to improving mental health outcomes in a shipboard environment, the Seacare Authority held a mental health workshop in Fremantle on 20 November 2018.

Recognising that seafarers face a unique set of challenges, the workshop brought together maritime employees, seafarers and industry professionals in an open conversation about working together to increase awareness of and develop mentally healthy workplaces.

The mental health workshop was a success, but it was one small step. There are no simple answers to the challenges faced by seafarers, and the Seacare Authority will continue to work with the industry to build our resources and industry understanding of mental health to achieve better outcomes both at sea and at home.

Safety Net Fund and levy collection

A key function of the Seacare Authority is the oversight and management of the Seafarers Safety Net Fund (Fund). The Fund provides compensation benefits for injured workers when there is no existing employer to lodge the claim against.

Through ongoing monitoring and review of the financial position of the Fund, the Seacare Authority agreed in 2018–19 to recommend an increase in the levy rate to the Minister, from $25 to $50.

Seacare Authority governance, accountability and data

Cross agency agreement

The Seacare Authority and Comcare have an agreement in place (referred to as the cross agency agreement) in relation to the provision of specific services by Comcare. The current agreement, which was implemented for a three-year period, expires in June 2022.

Strategic Risk Register

The Seacare Authority maintained its Strategic Risk Register throughout the year, including reviewing it to mitigate, as far as practicable, current and emerging risks.

Seacare Scheme Data Report

To complement the 2017–18 annual report, the Seacare Authority published a Seacare Scheme Data Report which provided a comprehensive summary of scheme data and performance up to 2017–18. The report is available on the Seacare website. A similar report will be published for
2018–19 to complement this annual report.

I wish to acknowledge the important role of AMSA as the occupational health and safety inspectorate for the Seacare scheme, and thank the staff of AMSA for their valuable contribution to the work of the Seacare Authority.

Finally, I would like to thank the staff of Comcare for their professional support, guidance and assistance.