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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3294..


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Mr Stanhope, in accordance with standing order 128, fixed the next day of sitting as the time for the moving of this motion.

Civil Law (Wrongs) Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 24 September 2002, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MS TUCKER (11.52): The Civil Law (Wrongs) Bill is the first stage of this government's response to the so-called insurance crisis. The ACT Greens will be supporting this bill overall, although we do have concerns with some of the strategies government is pursuing through this legislation. I will address the specific concerns in the detail stage.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the government for taking an approach by which it does not fall prey to the insurance panic which has seen other governments around Australia sacrifice the rights or entitlements of victims of negligence in order to assist the insurance industry to make up for past business mistakes. In other words, we have not heard the same kind of "litigious society" and "outrageous court awards" posturing that seems to come second nature to the New South Wales Carr government, for example. This bill does not put absolute caps on awards for damages and leaves a lot of the decisions about proportional responsibility in the hands of the court, where we believe they should be.

As the government has made clear, this bill is the first stage of a three-stage approach to insurance issues facing the community. This bill is intended to provide a framework for tort law on top of which further reform can be built. In other words, it is not all particularly far reaching.

That of course is not necessarily a bad thing. While there are some urgent issues facing us, tort law has evolved over several hundred years as a forum to articulate what is right and wrong. It is that aspect of the law with which citizens can engage and where the notion of access and equity, however moderated by the business of lawyers and the courts, comes into play.

We have to be fairly careful about how we play around with notions of responsibility and negligence. The various protections of the law, in civil as well as criminal matters, are fundamental to the kind of society we have and want to keep. Of course, many of the most pressing concerns revolve around compensation, injury (potential and actual) and insurance.

There are more accidents and injuries to people than there are claims in court or awards made out. One of the underlying inadequacies of the system in Australia is that universal health care and welfare systems do not necessarily afford people the quality of care they need. So there is considerable pressure on the court system to perform as a compensation tribunal. Given the patchwork nature of compensation insurance, there are inequities in


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