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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4398..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

This legislation will make sure that there is insurance coverage to apply to professional negligence cases taken by consumers that will give them access to full compensation for their loss. A consumer will no longer lose money through an action taken against a bankrupt professional because, if you are a member of a professional scheme, you must have insurance.

These schemes will ensure that professional people are in a position to purchase insurance, as the caps will have the effect of lowering the risk for insurers, resulting in lower premiums for professionals. In addition, the use of risk management mechanisms will further act to raise the standards of professional services, resulting in fewer consumer claims and lower insurance premiums.

The professional standards schemes will ensure that those professional people providing services to the ACT community will all now have professional indemnity insurance. They will be insured to fund compensation claims made by consumers who suffer economic loss as a result of professional negligence. I believe that these benefits, as far as the ACT community is concerned, are very worth while having.

Mr Speaker, I foreshadowed that I would be moving two government amendments to the bill to respond, most particularly, to representations that the government has received from the Law Society in relation to a particular aspect of the legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clause 1 to 7, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

Clause 8.

MS DUNDAS (8.41): I will be opposing this clause, and I will also be opposing clause 9, which deals with the new professional standards section of the bill. I made most of my comments on these issues in the in-principle stage but, to sum up again, for members' interest, these clauses set up a system whereby professionals can get out of paying for the damage that they cause. These clauses limit their liability to as little as half a million dollars, even if they cause damage that is many times greater. All they need to do in return is take up professional indemnity insurance and implement risk management strategies, which competent professionals should actually already be doing.

There is no certainty that the scheme will have any effect whatsoever on insurance premiums, while it will erode the legal rights of compensation for the people and businesses of the ACT. This legislation is irresponsible and is trading the rights of Canberrans in order to try and please insurance companies. That is why the Democrats will not be supporting clause 8 or clause 9.

MS TUCKER (8.43): The Greens concur with the Democrats on this; we will be opposing clauses 8 and 9. I am aware that this scheme applies only to an economic loss,


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