Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 September 2010) . . Page.. 4164 ..
considerable public funds and a most significant area of policy. It warrants further comment from the Treasurer and I trust the Treasurer will speak to this when she closes debate.
Briefly, the history, as I understand it, is that up until the end of the calendar year 2007—that is, 31 December 2007—the management of the Nominal Defendant matters was handled externally to the ACT government. Relevant reports are available on the Treasury website. According to the Insurance Authority’s annual report for 2008-09, the authority became the Nominal Defendant on 17 December 2008, although the assets and liabilities were not transferred until the beginning of January 2009.
This means that there is an interregnum of virtually 12 months for which there is no report on the activities of the Nominal Defendant. Indeed, in the audit report on the Insurance Authority for 2008-09, the Auditor-General provides a qualified report on the activities and financial affairs of the Nominal Defendant. The Auditor-General raises a number of concerns about the period prior to 1 January 2009, noting that it was not possible to be assured of the veracity of information relating to the Nominal Defendant prior to that date.
We need to be quite clear about this, Mr Speaker. The amounts involved, while not large in the context of the ACT budget, are certainly significant with assets and liabilities of nearly $12 million and, of course, serious matters involving claims arising from motor vehicle crashes, including claims that are still under consideration and dating from before the transfer took place. I cannot find any explanation from the ACT government about this gap in the history of the Nominal Defendant.
There are many serious questions about this matter, including: when was the decision taken to transfer responsibility for the Nominal Defendant to the Insurance Authority; what arrangements were made to transfer this responsibility; what arrangements were made to ensure that any necessary transition arrangements were implemented; and why was there no report on the activities of the Nominal Defendant for the period 1 January 2008 until 31 December 2008? Mr Speaker, I will be pursuing this matter in the annual reports hearings in a few weeks.
I make a few final comments about some of the wording in the bill. In section 14A(f) there is a reference to motor accidents, while in section 14A(g) there is a reference to motor vehicle accidents. I took this matter up in the briefing and was assured that these different descriptions will not affect the way in which the regime will be applied, although action will be taken to make these descriptions consistent.
It does bring me to this point: the phrase “motor accident” as it is used in, for example, section 14A(f) is one issue that we spoke about in the briefing. It concerns changing the behaviour of road users. In this context, there are very strong arguments to change this word from “accidents” to “crashes” or to a similar word. “Accidents” suggests that events in which people are injured or killed are just that—accidents—when the reality is that typically these are not accidents at all. They are tragic events, crashes of whatever descriptions, in which sometimes quite awful outcomes result. We need to get away from the notion that we experience a motor vehicle accident.