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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4246 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

original proposal and people can see what the Government has in mind and have known what the Government has in mind for 21/2 years, why do we need to have further delay?

Why are we sticking by our original proposals? The answer is very simple. The advice to me is absolutely clear. It is that to adopt the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety with respect to the reform of this scheme would not result in the achievement of the savings that the Government had targeted in this exercise to help pay for the victims assistance scheme which we were to establish from those savings; in fact, it would cost ACT taxpayers a great deal more than they are presently paying for the system. To quote my advice:

The extra cost to ACT taxpayers of the committee's recommendations is estimated to be in the order of $6m to $7m per year over the first two years. There would be a transitional blip arising from the current backlog of claims which would take about two years to process. The extra cost would then reduce to around $4m per year over the following years.

And further on:

The committee's proposals would produce a scheme costing in total around $10m to $13m per year. That amount is higher than the current level of expenditure and more than twice the level of expenditure under the Government's proposals.

That, Mr Speaker, is why we have rejected the recommendations of the committee. That is why we have had to come back and have further negotiations with members of the Assembly on accepting that it simply is not sustainable to proceed with what the committee has recommended. It would be totally counterproductive. In fact, for the reasons I have just outlined, the Government would be better off abandoning the whole reform process altogether than proceeding with what the committee has recommended.

We have proposed reform in this area because it is patently obvious that we need reform in this area. I might say that it has been obvious not just to this Government, but to the former Government. I hear the claims from Mr Hargreaves, Mr Stanhope and Mr Berry about how outrageous the Government's attempts are to wind back the rights of victims. I remind those members that they were either members of or associated with the previous Labor Government in this town, which also attempted significant reform of criminal injuries compensation. Those reforms included actually wiping out whole classes of application of the legislation. For example, people involved in criminal acts in relation to sporting events would have been ineligible for claims. It was not a question of the injury being extremely serious; there would have been no claims whatsoever under the proposals that came forward from the Labor Party at that stage. Those opposite should not claim that we are the hard-hearted Harriettes who are prepared to drive victims into the ground and they are the ones who care about victims. When they were in government they tried to reform criminal injuries compensation in ways that were in some respects more harsh than the ones that we are proposing today.

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