Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1158 ..
MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health and Community Care. According to an announcement by the Minister in August 1998, the Government was going to use legislation to establish a scheme to compensate people who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood transfusions. On 25 March, in answer to a question from me, the Minister said he would not be using legislation but rather had put a scheme in place to deal with compensation claims. Yesterday the Minister tabled a further answer to my question. In light of the information provided in yesterday's answer, can the Minister say whether it is true to say that there is in fact no scheme at all and that each case will now be litigated separately, managed in the same manner as out-of-court settlements and based on the same principles as legal settlements?
MR MOORE: Thank you for the question, Mr Stanhope. No, that is not true. It is largely true that things will be negotiated in the same way as is done in other States. The major difference in the plan set up in Canberra is that we are prepared to offer compensation to people who are haemophiliacs, and we are doing that by provision of a grant to the Haemophilia Association to be handled by them. That is a major significant difference from others.
It was very important when we began negotiations with the Commonwealth to ensure that the Commonwealth was able to contribute to this and to ensure, when we put the scheme together, that there would be no further litigation beyond any scheme that we put together. That being the case, we had a choice really between whether we would remove people's common-law rights by legislation or allow them the weight of the law. The choice made by this Government was to allow people to have their common-law rights under the law and to try to manage that in the most effective way that we possibly could. That is what we are doing.
MR SPEAKER: Do you have a supplementary question, Mr Stanhope?
MR STANHOPE: Yes, Mr Speaker. Can the Minister advise the Assembly whether claimants will be given assistance with their legal expenses as they pursue compensation?
MR MOORE: I will take that question on notice and come back to you, Mr Stanhope.
MR SPEAKER: I would like to inform members of the presence in the gallery of members of a government delegation from the Philippines studying public sector financial reform. The delegation is led by Secretary Benjamin Diokno, the head of the Department of Budget Management. On behalf of all members, I bid you a warm welcome.