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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 997 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

Today it happens to be insurance, and it happens to be insurance for a select group of people. But tomorrow, if this is successful, as the Chief Minister foreshadowed, anybody can come to a member of this place and say, "We think you should fix the price of a litre of milk at 50c. Don't be worried about what it costs to produce the litre of milk. We think you should fix it at 50c." That would be just as rational as what Mr Osborne is asking us to do here.

I am not in the milk production business and I do not know what it costs to produce a litre of milk. Mr Osborne is not in the insurance business and does not know what it costs to provide insurance of any sort. We could have somebody come in and say, "We want you to fix the price of petrol in the ACT at 50c a litre." If we do this today, what justification could we have for saying to those people that "it is not our place to do that".

It is not our place to intrude into the marketplace and fix the price of anything, unless all of the facts are put before us, and in this case we have no facts. We just have the assertion that a group of people are finding it difficult to pay an insurance premium.

Mr Berry: I will table some facts, then.

MR KAINE: What happens if tomorrow somebody comes here and says, "We cannot afford to pay insurance on our houses. We want you to fix the maximum price of house insurance at 7 per cent or 8 per cent. We cannot afford to pay to insure our motor vehicles against damage. We want you to fix motor vehicle comprehensive insurance at 5 per cent." If we agree to this today, we are setting a precedent for that sort of request to be made, and on what basis do we reject it?

If we are no better informed on those matters than we are on this one, how could we arbitrarily reject any such request once we have established the precedent. This is capricious and, if we approve this, it is legislating on the run with no information or justification whatsoever, except that a group of people have said, "We find the insurance premium too high."

I do not know the full argument, or whether it is too high, but I submit that the proper place for this to be considered is not on the floor of this house, but by reference to our pricing watchdog, our pricing regulator. Ask him to do a review of insurance premiums in the ACT and give us an opinion, after proper review, as to whether the rates of insurance are too high, too low or just right.

It is not for us to determine it. We are incapable of doing that sort of a review, and I submit that we ought not to be moving motions and passing motions putting into effect decisions of this place on such little information, and with such little justification. If we do, I think we are building a big black hole for ourselves to fall into in the future, and it will create expectations on the part of consumers out there that we will address any question that is put to us in terms of price fixing. That is not our role. We have deliberately set up a body to do that for us.

I would suggest to Mr Osborne that he withdraw this motion and, instead, seek the reference of the matter to our pricing regulator where it ought to be reviewed, so that that authority can come back to us with a reasoned debate, based on factual information, as to whether or not the present rates are too high. The bottom line in this particular matter

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