Dita De Boni: Play it safe, don't play at all

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Let's stop insuring unfit office workers trying to relive old sporting glories.

Curtailed as the ACC system has become, we are continually made to feel that we simply can't afford it the way it is now. Photo / Anna Crichton
Curtailed as the ACC system has become, we are continually made to feel that we simply can't afford it the way it is now. Photo / Anna Crichton

One of the nice things about a long-term relationship is that long after the sweet talk is dispensed with, the other person remains to bear witness to your solo ranting, raving and fulminating on the inevitable frustrations of life.

Marriage is one step better.

It contractually obliges the other person to at least pretend to be listening to your complaints (with extra brownie points for head-nodding and murmuring sympathetically).

I was having one such crisis recently when I opened my ACC levies bill, to be confronted with a $600-plus demand for payment.

I let out such a stream of invective that my long-suffering husband was moved to raise his head from the couch and utter a sympathetic curse in my general direction.

The irony of the moment was that at the time we were both watching Bronwyn Pullar describe, in emotive detail, the series of events between herself, supporter Michelle Boag and ACC representatives, involving ACC's inadvertant disclosure of confidential information.

Even if one couldn't quite muster the level of sympathy for Pullar and Boag demanded by the framing of the story - including the bit where the former National Party insider and high-flyer complains about the unfair treatment meted out to the disabled and needy - one was left wondering how an organisation could be quite so remiss as to email such an enormous file, with such highly sensitive information, to a random client for no apparent reason.

There seems little doubt that the internal culture of ACC requires an overhaul - perhaps even a total rebuild.

But even privatising ACC, which National governments itch to do, will not solve the problem of claimants being hurried off the books; it could well exacerbate it.

My own experience thus far with ACC is far from Pullar's dramatic tale; it's a story of someone who largely stays at home looking after children and gets whacked with a stonking great bill each year nonetheless.

I do have workplace injuries, but none requiring anything more than a soothing vino at 5pm: a ceramic cup broken over my head by a baby; thumped in the eye socket with a plastic phone; a slide over a plastic toy fry pan followed by a near-concussion on a concrete wall; and what felt like self-amputation of my leg when I slipped on some watermelon-scented kid's soap and landed heavily on a metal shower lip.

I have seen abuse of the ACC system up close, though: the never-ending stream of unfit office workers who decide to play indoor netball in winter and end up with snapped Achilles, and fractured fibulas, tibias and sprained ankles, all of whom no doubt prove a huge drain on the system. Unfortunately, tubby lard-arses trying to relive former sporting glories were also the lifeblood of the physiotherapy sector, which has since seen its access to ACC funding curtailed heavily.

But curtailed as the ACC system has become, we are continually made to feel that we simply can't afford it the way it is now (we can't afford superannuation either, or benefits, come to think of it).

The problems of contracting budgets are only going to get worse so I propose, as a first step, we stop funding sports-related injuries altogether. That would surely make a decent dent in the agency's expenditure.

- NZ Herald

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