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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3350 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I understand very much the force of the argument that Ms Tucker makes. Indeed, having regard to the careful way in which Ms Tucker's amendment has been couched, the government will support the amendment. I think she is being unduly generous, but it is well drafted and drafted with some real consideration to meeting the government's determination to restrain costs in relation to small matters.

Ms Tucker is quite right about the evidence. I have pursued this issue to some extent and it is one of those issues. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence around. I am privy to a whole range of anecdotal evidence from a number of sources about outrageous cost claims in relation to some matters and I know that some of these claims are true. I know that there have been instances where lawyers have eventually managed to eke out of the system compensation payments of, say, $50,000 for a client and the bills have come to $40,000. I know of those instances. We all do. Mr Stefaniak knows of them. We know they happen. We know of lawyers pursuing matters through the courts over years and seeking, at the end of the day, a payment for their client of $50,000, say, and then presenting a bill for $40,000 or $45,000. They happen, and we all know they happen.

There are lots of instances where we do not have situations or circumstances such as that, but it would be interesting perhaps to ask the Law Society and the Bar Association about reporting on these sorts of instances, just as we demand these days that sort of reporting from the insurance companies. We need to do more work there about a minority, one would hope, of the profession. But we all know that it happens. Some of us know it through personal circumstances. I, in government as Attorney-General, know it through some of the matters that are settled in which the government is involved. I know of the cost claims that some lawyers around town make and how, at the end of the day, they have left their client with less than 10 per cent or 5 per cent of the final amount claimed.

That is another issue, to some extent, but this is very much a provision designed to impose that real cost discipline on small matters as a response to this major problem which the community is facing. The government will support your amendment, Ms Tucker.

MR STEFANIAK (5.08): The opposition also will be supporting Ms Tucker's amendment. I tend to agree with the remarks made by the Chief Minister. I am well aware of a number of cases where the fees have been quite excessive. I can see exactly what he and the department are trying to do here.

The amendment has been carefully drafted. I do not think that in recent times I have been complimentary towards Ms Tucker quite so often, she being a screaming leftie on everything and disagreeing with me on lots of things, but this amendment is well drafted, as the Chief Minister said. What it does in terms of counsel's brief to appear is it applies at the end of a process.

The Chief Minister's bill will cover a lot of the work-indeed, most of the work-that would be done in a claim that might go on for a number of years, that is, from taking instructions through to briefing counsel to settle pleadings, and those costs are all tied up in the 20 per cent or the $10,000 which is referred to in the other clauses. Ms Tucker's amendment merely kicks in at the end when there is a brief to appear in court on behalf of a client. That is often the least of a lot of the expenses, especially of a claim that might take several years before going to finalisation in court.

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