NOT PJ: Too Big Not To Fail
Bernard Darnton wrote this piece about ACC several days ago, assuming that Key’s latest changes wouldn’t do much to fix anything. No editing was required.
When Libertarianz puts together its alternative budget each year the plan’s always the same: slap everything on Trade Me. Last time, when we tried to work out what the “Buy Now” price for ACC would be, we ran into a problem. One dollar reserve was a massive over-valuation.
We’re not talking about a Kiwirail-sized problem here; at least the track has some scrap value. ACC is more of a breach-of-the-Companies-Act trading-while-insolvent type of problem. If a company in the real world had finances like ACC’s the liquidators would be brought in. Anyone mad enough to bid on our auction would have immediately been marched in front of a judge.
As well as failing the insolvency test, ACC’s hypothetical (and presumably insane) private owners would be in trouble for their other business practices. Invoicing you for services you didn’t ask for – pro forma invoicing – is a breach of the Fair Trading Act. If an insurance company sends you a pro forma invoice, you should ask for proof that the deal was agreed to. “No proof, no payment” is the advice from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ “Scamwatch” website.
As for ACC’s demands that we buy insurance for things that have already happened, Consumer Affairs has no advice – presumably because no private sector criminal has ever thought he could get away with such a scheme.
Of course, ACC isn’t an insurance company; it’s yet another welfare agency. If it was an insurance company it would offer me a lower premium if I took on a larger excess. I might get a no claims discount. It could offer me exclusions for things I didn’t want to insure – for example, “self-harm.” I’m pretty sure I don’t need to insure against deliberately slicing myself with a razor. First, I’m not an idiot teenager. Second, if I’m desperate for attention I just knock together a scantly researched and inflammatory blog post.
Over the last few years, ACC has morphed into the Accident, Bad Luck, Stupidity, and Feeling Sad Compensation Corporation. Add to that the booming free physiotherapy lark. Bolt onto that some doctors’ insistence that insect bites and other “accidents” are responsible for every ailment from Aagenaes syndrome to Zuska’s disease (thanks Wikipedia). Onto all that shovel a colossal heap of malingerers for whom ACC is another hiding place from the unemployment stats, and it’s no wonder that the scheme is in a twenty billion dollar hole.
Levies may need to be raised by up to 50 percent, warned ACC chairman John Judge. Without the hikes ACC would become even more bankrupt. That’s really, really bankrupt.
So this week the Prime Minister announced that his government would be rearranging the wheelchairs on the Titanic. True to form, the government’s aim hasn’t been to get the scheme under control, let alone replace it with something that works. The aim has been to keep levy increases to “politically acceptable levels” – in Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s memorable words: plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount if hissing.
Start hissing; you’re about to get plucked.
* * Bernard Darnton is not PJ O’Rourke. * *
* * Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *