Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3291 ..
MS TUCKER (9.25): The Greens will be supporting the referral of this legislation to committee. I think the argument was well put by Mr Stanhope, so I will not go over all the issues. Just briefly, the period for consideration has not been long enough. Consultation was inadequate and not comprehensive at all. There are issues of serious concern and that is where I might differ from Mr Stanhope. I think there are issues that we would have a problem with. There are certainly very controversial and significant changes coming through in this legislation. The retrospectivity of it, of course, is very controversial. The removal of "pain and suffering" is also very controversial.
I have also been lobbied by a number of groups in the community - not just by lawyers, by the way, but by victims of crime as well - who are very concerned about the removal of the pain and suffering component and who believe that this is a significant shift from compensation to financial assistance, a philosophical shift which certainly does deserve greater scrutiny and more time. So I am very pleased that this motion for referral to a committee has been moved. It looks as though the numbers will be there to support that referral. I would have to agree totally with Mr Stanhope's comments that the Executive is acting in a most arrogant manner in this Assembly and has been doing so for some time.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (9.27): Mr Deputy Speaker, I appreciate that the Assembly does wish to refer this matter to a committee. Obviously, the Government will work with the committee once this reference begins to advance the issues which this package of reforms in the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) (Amendment) Bill actually argues for. But I have to put on the record, first of all, the Government's reluctance to have this matter referred in this way and, secondly, why it is that we feel that there is a risk involved in this proposal.
Mr Deputy Speaker, when the Government announced that it was going to engineer reforms to the criminal injuries system, it appreciated that one immediate effect would be that on announcing changes to the system there would be potential claimants who would attempt to rush the gate before the gate was closed. Any change to a system carries with it that risk. That is why the Government, in announcing the changes to this scheme, did what has often happened in the past when governments in other jurisdictions have announced changes of this kind, that is, it announced that the changes would take effect as of the date on which the budget in which the measure was announced was brought down. In this case, that was the ACT budget brought down on 24 June. So, we announced at that stage that we were going to change the criminal injuries compensation system, that we were going to reduce the emphasis on cash payments instead of a victims support service, and we announced the cut-off of claims under the old scheme from that point.
Obviously, claims have continued to come in from that point because some claimants, particularly their solicitors, have operated in the hope that the changes would not take effect and that their claims would therefore be accepted or, if it did take effect, it would only take effect as from the date that the Assembly passed the legislation or it was gazetted rather than from some earlier point, so their claims would still get in under the door, as it were. The effect that that is having on the budget for criminal injuries compensation for this year is quite extraordinary. Last year we had a budget expenditure