Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (24 March) . . Page.. 745 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
prepared at different times. At the last minute somebody said, "Look, it would be helpful if we included the script". The figures on the attachment are correct, the figures of six and five, whereas the body of the text refers to figures of seven and four for people who are either positive or negative in terms of hepatitis C; but let me emphasise that this is a matter that is changing every day, so we have to be particularly careful.
With specific regard to the question Mr Stanhope has asked, yes, I did order a low-level investigation. I asked the chief executive officer of the Department of Health to go back through and see first of all what governments knew. Mr Speaker, this is very difficult for me. There are questions now on the notice paper that I have to be careful not to answer, although I hope to have answers to those in the next couple of days.
The low-level inquiry that was conducted found that no Minister had been informed of the matter until Mr Humphries, towards the end of his time as Health Minister, a month or so before I was appointed; and, when I found out, that action had already been taken. Being aware that most of the people who had been involved in the issue were no longer with the Canberra Hospital - we were dealing with issues that were between a range of hospitals and the Red Cross - I thought it would be far better to put our energies into ensuring that we got the best possible outcomes in terms of compensation.
As Mr Stanhope would know, nobody has been more open about anything than I have been about hepatitis C. He has asked a series of questions. There is information that I have provided to him, which is the basis upon which he has asked the further questions. I will get that information back to him as quickly as I can. I think it is particularly important to be as open as possible.
I will go back through a little bit of the process, Mr Speaker. Originally when we looked at this issue we considered, although we did not adopt this approach, the possibility of restricting people's rights to compensation and did projections on that in terms of what that would cost the community. We decided that it would be far better to ensure that people were entitled to compensation that they would normally be entitled to under common law, but we would do what we could to try to avoid the large costs involved in litigation when it was possible to do so.
We said that we expected there would be something up to $8m in compensation. I think the figure was just over $8m, actually. In fact, we have reviewed that figure. We expect the figure now to be about $5.6m, I think, in a worst case scenario. We expect it to be between $2m and $3m, with a worst scenario of $5.6m. There has been a series of different figures that have been put around because it is very difficult to judge. As the health officer said to me today, "Michael, it is changing daily". We did not expect to find the number of people deceased that we have found. Remember, when we are talking about the 62 people referred to in the information I provided yesterday who have died, we are talking about people who were having transfusions for some major condition in the first place, for example, cancer, and therefore it is not surprising that they have died.
We also are looking at compensation now not just for the illness, for hepatitis C and the inconvenience it causes, but also for loss of earnings, should that be necessary. As I said in the information provided yesterday, we are aware of one case in another State that is