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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2538 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

people extremely seriously. We are not going to close down this service. We are looking to an alternative provider, potentially.


MS MacDONALD: My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer clarify for members the legal protection afforded by the Trade Practices Act to the general ACT community in respect of the current insurance climate?

MR QUINLAN: Mr Speaker, with your guidance, I will take due care not to anticipate debate on some bills before the house. I want to make it clear to the house that the insurance issue is very serious and requires an equally serious approach to its resolution.

On 15 July the opposition, assisted by some organisations, staged an event to gain some exposure-at least ostensibly-for proposals to address the insurance problem. Following that event I received complaints that the organisation involved had put pressure on clients to sign certain documents in support of the cause. Of greater concern was the nature of the documents thrust at attendees.

I can understand the business wanting to do this if the business has been led to believe, or, more correctly, misled to believe, that the mere production of its own waiver or a waiver that might have been given them-I do not know the source-would in any way change the relationship with its client. It was, I think, a very dangerous situation to create.

I have expressed my concern in the public forum, and I want to repeat that an attempt to waive individual rights to sue may not abrogate common law rights until the new section 68A of the Trade Practices Act is in force. We need to be very careful as to what advice is given. I am greatly concerned that this sort of misinformation has great potential to do harm in the general community.

To put the insurance question in the ACT into perspective-it is a worldwide problem-Australia represents 2 per cent of the global insurance market, and the ACT represents 2 per cent of that 2 per cent. This government has participated fully in looking for practical solutions that will impact upon the affordability and accessibility of insurance, but it is probably not real clever for the ACT to pretend that it could go out on its own. In fact, it could be downright irresponsible and dangerous. I am reminded of the phrase "fools rush in".

MS MacDONALD: Can the Treasurer say if members of the opposition played any role in this activity, and how does it reflect on their contribution to the insurance crisis in the ACT?

MR QUINLAN: It is quite clear that the opposition staged this event just for exposure. You will have to forgive me-I had forgotten that the Liberals in this place had built a culture of the photo opportunity far ahead of substance. It would appear that we have an opposition that is lazy and bereft of ideas, to the extent of wanting to puddle-

Mr Smyth: I have a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the minister providing an opinion, and is his answer therefore out of order?

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