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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 3721 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

the sake of a shorthand discussion, the major issues can be described as encompassing medical indemnity insurance and public liability insurance.

As members know, and as Mr Humphries has indicated, the Commonwealth, without consultation with the heads of treasury, appointed an expert group headed by Justice Ipp. Justice Ipp brought down a noteworthy report with a significant number of recommendations in it. In tandem with that was a report commissioned by ministers for health, following on from excellent work done by Dr Penny Gregory, head of the ACT department of health, in relation to medical indemnity issues.

We now have the benefit of those two reports. Mr Humphries, in his question, raises particular issues around long-term care. One of the great frustrations for the states-and indeed for myself-has been the lack of leadership by the Commonwealth on issues around long-term care. At the heart of the recommendations made, especially by Professor Neave, was a range of initiatives that can be pursued under the broad heading of tort law reform-reform of the laws in relation to negligence-as well as a range of procedural issues in relation to the pursuit of actions for negligence.

Underpinning, and at the centre of, the Neave recommendations are recommendations in relation to the need for us, as a nation, or as communities, to structure a new way of dealing with the long-term care costs of people with catastrophic injuries-especially children injured at birth as a result of the negligent actions of doctors or perhaps hospitals. That is significant, when we recognise that the last major negligence decision for a catastrophically injured child came in at around $14 million to $15 million and set a mark. Six million dollars of that was a long-term care component.

I will wrap up on this because it is a subject for major debate in itself. The ACT government has introduced, and this Assembly has passed, the first tranche of a significant response to issues around the need for us to reform tort laws-the laws of negligence or the laws in relation to violence. It was a significant start.

Our position always was that we would work with other jurisdictions-that we would work through heads of treasury, departments of health and COAG-to seek to achieve a national response. It has been difficult, because different jurisdictions have taken slightly different approaches. There is a debate to be had around the best approach, and there is a debate to be had about the nature and level of the response that we, as a jurisdiction, should make.

It must be acknowledged that much of what we face in relation to insurance premiums is as a result of industry failure. HIH failed as a result of its deliberately seeking to undercut its competitors-a major failure. There was a failure of regulation. UMP failed because it was not, some would concede, appropriately regulated. It was a medical defence organisation developed, structured and managed by doctors, which failed under the administration of doctors, leaving a half-billion dollar tail unfunded, and leaving a whole range of medical practitioners without the cover the MDO was meant to give.

Mr Humphries: I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question is: will you embrace the recommendations of the Ipp panel? With respect, what you are saying is interesting-but that is not the question I asked. Would the minister address the question I have asked? Will you embrace the recommendations the Ipp panel has made?

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