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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4269 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (2.39 am): Mr Speaker, again I remind members, if they want to wind back the extent of the definition of "extremely serious injury", then they will simply wind back the extent to which the scheme is affordable, particularly provisions about what constitutes an extremely serious injury.

Mr Berry: There is more to life than dollars, Gary.

MR HUMPHRIES: You find the money to do that and we will reconsider our position.

Mr Berry: Well, you can find it to blow up hospitals and you can find it to build stadiums.

Mr Stanhope: Or at Bruce Stadium.

MR HUMPHRIES: We will bring our draft budget down next month. The Assembly is going to have its committees look at that draft budget. You find where the $6m to $7m is going to come from and we will think about changing our position. Mr Speaker, I know they do not like what I am saying, but they do not have to talk over me the whole time I am up. If those opposite believe that money should be spent here compensating people for the sorts of claims that Mr Hargreaves was reading out earlier tonight, rather than funding more beds in the hospitals, more services available to students in our schools and other essential community services, good luck to them.

I do not think that is what the Territory should be spending its money on. Neither, apparently, do most of the colleagues of ours in other governments in other parts of Australia, including Labor governments, believe that to be the case. It is time we started to look rationally at what we can afford as a community. We are already paying compensation payments at the highest level in Australia by a very long margin. Most other jurisdictions have moved to reform their system and move, in fact, away from pain and suffering, notwithstanding what Ms Tucker said about Victoria.

I am very doubtful that Victoria is going to change its law in that respect. I think it would be very unlikely any State is going to go back to the old regime of pain and suffering being available to everybody, to all and sundry. Labor have not yet bothered to try to explain to the house why it is that the position that their parties have taken in New South Wales apparently is not good enough for the ACT. It is a system that clearly cries out for reform. For that reason we should not accept this amendment.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (2.41 am): I will respond very briefly. This is not an amendment that, had it simply been dropped here tonight without Mr Rugendyke's proposal to create this hierarchy of victims, the Labor Party would have supported. The only reason Labor is supporting this particular amendment is that we have no option in the interests of simple justice and equity. I am unable to see how anybody cannot support this amendment, having regard to the fact that the Assembly has now on Mr Rugendyke's amendment, with the support of Mr Osborne and the Government, agreed to introduce a whole separate scheme just for the police, ambulance and firefighters, whom, I understand, made no claims in the past year.

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