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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2023..


Appropriation (HIH) Bill 2000-2001

Debate resumed from 13 June 2001, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR QUINLAN (12.09): Again, the opposition will generally be supporting this bill as a necessary and unfortunate consequence of the HIH collapse. There are a couple of points that ought to be made. The first is that a $9 million fund exists. There seems to be some tardiness, at least in the administration process, whereby, for people who have already had their claims approved, their medical expenses and their disability payments are not flowing at this stage. The government might consider unblocking that channel to ensure that that happens, at least, to the extent of the existing funds. We would support the remainder of it.

The Treasurer, in his closing of the debate, might explain the impact on the budget. This year the estimated surplus is $40 million plus, and it is probably a good idea, at least for the government, to get this through in this year's appropriation rather than next year's-even though there is $9 million lying around-otherwise they might just happen to pop up a deficit, which does lead one to look at the projected bottom lines of the future and the actual tightness of the budget recently brought down.

This is the first bump in the road in relation to budget 2001 and, if we are up for an extra $30 million, it will affect our cash position in the out years unless there is the recovery process that already exists, to which associated provisions of this particular bill relate in terms of recovery. I would not mind hearing from the government its longer-term plan for the recovery of the $30 million. Otherwise, we will be supporting the bill.

MR HUMPHRIES (Chief Minister, Minister for Community Affairs and Treasurer) (12.11), in reply: I thank Mr Quinlan for the opposition's support for the bill. It is very important that we take action to address, when we can and within reason, the serious consequences for many in the community of the collapse of HIH. I might observe at this point that it is interesting to see how many members in this place have been educated at Catholic schools and as a result say "haitch-aye-haitch" rather than "aitch-aye-aitch". I say "aitch-aye-aitch", but I have seen the light.

Mr Quinlan: What did I say?

MR HUMPHRIES: "Haitch-aye-haitch". I think it is appropriate and necessary for us to act to support people who have had their workers compensation threatened by the collapse of HIH. I hope that we find ourselves generously disposed towards those people by taking this action today. Yes, the territory does have a looming surplus for this present financial year, and I believe that, given our available funds, it is appropriate to take a step to assist people who are affected in this way.

Members know that a fund was set up more than 20 years ago to cover the eventuality of an insurance company folding and not being able to meet its obligations in respect of workers compensation. As luck would have it, in 1985 it was determined that that fund was sufficiently well equipped to face any foreseeable loss in the future, and contributions to the fund were discontinued at that time. As we now know, the $9 million


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