Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1847..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
There will be changes to legislation in various jurisdictions. I have mentioned some of those before. We will be evaluating those and adopting the consensus position in many of the cases, but not necessarily all of them, at this stage. They include protection for volunteers and not-for-profit organisations and law reform. The legal definition of negligence might be refined so that we do not have all the crazy cases that get all the media attention. That, apparently, is not as easy a task as one would expect and the collective jurisdictions will be engaging three eminent jurists to provide advice on how we might set up common legislation for general law reform and tort law reform to ensure that a finding of negligence is a finding against someone who has actually been negligent in a genuine sense, rather than just being associated with a particular facility.
I have spoken before about waivers for risky activities. We have discussed the very vexed point of capping claims. That is one on which this government will take further advice before it moves, but some states are moving for both caps and thresholds on awards. The important thing for us to note is that New South Wales is at the head of that pack and will be introducing legislation in September to bring some of its caps in line with those that already exist with third-party vehicle insurance and other personal injury claims. That would make us an island within New South Wales. That would make us very vulnerable in terms of our capacity to gain insurance cover and that would also make us quite vulnerable as a possible forum if people wish to do a bit of forum shopping in relation to insurance claims, bringing the claims to court in the ACT because there are not particular caps.
Let me advise the Assembly at this stage that the caps that are envisaged by other states are not particularly onerous. An example is that the cap on the loss of personal earnings would be at three times average national earnings. You would want to be in the salary range of over $100,000 a year before you could lose, but those people who are above $100,000 a year in their earning capacity may find that they need to take a personal loss of earnings cover against a calamitous accident that might limit their capacity at some future time. The Commonwealth government has moved to allow structured settlements. It should be bringing forward the appropriate legislation this week in the big house on the hill. There will be some moves to try to improve the handling of claims without resort to litigation, possibly the pre-litigation exchange of information and evidence and compulsory conferencing.
At the end of the day, there will be no silver bullet in relation to this package of measures. Our treasury people have examined them and most of them will have only a marginal effect. It is my sad duty, I suppose, to advise the Assembly that improvement in this situation will not be an overnight happenstance and that, even if the states were to implement all of the proposed reforms or changes that have been discussed, it would not necessarily follow that we would see a dramatic change in the insurance market.
I table the joint communique from last week's meeting so that members can get a copy, if they wish. I present the following paper:
Public liability-Ministerial Meeting-Joint communique-Melbourne, 30 May 2002.
MR HARGREAVES: I have a supplementary question. Can the Treasurer say what he will be doing to notify the ACT community of these measures?