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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1766 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Whenever anyone makes a complaint about a solicitor, the Law Society investigates that complaint. I think it would be unnecessarily rigorous if, by virtue of an investigation-which could happen at any time to any one of these people-a person were to be excluded from trusteeship of a fidelity fund.

There are no doubt many other comments that might be made about the regulations, but I have neither the time nor the background material to be able to make those comments tonight. I come back to the comment I opened with. This is a fairly exceptional process, and it is one that has been embarked upon because of the circumstances of the matter.

I think it is incumbent upon government to protect members of an industry and, in turn, members of the public who seek a service in the ACT, a service that has been available for many decades and which should continue to be available in the territory for many decades to come. If providing that service means changing the nature of regulation in the territory, so be it.

We hope and assume that the government has devoted the necessary effort to consulting the industry, assessing the prudential issues and taking legal and other advice necessary to form a fully balanced view of the appropriateness of this scheme in its entirety. We hope it will apply that judgment in the coming weeks as it implements and sets up the scheme.

I hope that, for the sake of the industry and the people who are dependent upon it, the right decision has been made. I hope that in the future we will be able to see this scheme blossom into an appropriate mechanism for providing relief in the territory, one that will save the ACT from the catastrophic effects of a large-scale meltdown in the industry. That judgment is one that ultimately falls on the shoulders of the ACT government.

MS DUNDAS (6.13): I also would like to raise concerns about this Building Amendment Bill. In the presentation speech of the bill, the minister refers to the potential crisis in the ACT building industry. This potential crisis certainly received a quick response from the minister, as the Master Builders Association and the minister issued press releases to announce that the crisis had been solved only moments after it first hit the media. Following this policy response by press release, we now have the legislative response before us. And the response is to shift the goalposts entirely for builders and consumers in the ACT.

This potential insurance crisis is not concentrated solely in the ACT. The industry is undergoing real turmoil. There is a large, industry wide problem stemming from two totally unrelated incidents: domestic insurance companies are recovering losses from the price war that preceded the collapse of HIH, and overseas re-insurers are facing enormous payouts following the tragic events of September last year.

This is a problem for the insurance industry, and the recent debates about increasing insurance premiums in many areas, particularly public liability, are also due to these industry wide pressures on insurance. The evidence is overwhelming that the cause of the insurance crisis lies in the insurance industry rather than the legal system, the building industry or the community sector.

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