Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 420 ..
MR STEFANIAK (10.51): The opposition will be supporting this bill. The bill is intended to provide a longer-term solution to a problem. It proposes that there will be no right of action for death or injury arising out of the use of a motor vehicle, if the death or injury is caused by an act of terrorism committed before 1 October 2004.
The effect of the bill is that there will not be any right of action for death or injury against the owner or driver of a vehicle who is innocently caught up in an act of terrorism-or against his or her insurer. Hopefully, this bill will not be used at any stage, and we certainly hope we will not suffer such acts of terrorism-but it is important that it be prepared. This bill is consistent in its approach with what has occurred in Queensland and New South Wales-the two other jurisdictions in Australia where compulsory third party insurance is underwritten by private insurers.
The bill provides a couple of exceptions, as were mentioned by the minister. I will not go through those, because I would just be repeating them. Suffice to say that the exceptions are intended to maintain consistency with the bill passed by the Assembly by 17 June 2002-that is the Workers Compensation (Acts of Terrorism) Amendment Act of 2002.
The amendments in the bill are due to expire on 31 December, 2004. Whilst the solution proposed in the bill provides a certainty which the ACT compulsory third party scheme needs to operate in the current environment, it is not intended to be a permanent solution-I accept that. The idea is to encourage a return of reinsurers to the market, and to encourage NRMA Insurance Ltd to endeavour to obtain reinsurance for acts of terrorism on commercial terms.
The bill has been given a finite life. I trust that, if for some reason it needs to be extended past 31 December 2004, the government will bring in a bill to do that. I see the minister nodding, and I thank him for that. I believe that is crucially important but, hopefully it won't be necessary. As I said, the opposition is happy to support this bill.
MS DUNDAS (10.53): It continues to amaze me that the business decisions of insurance companies are having so much effect on public policy. Today the government is asking us to take away people's rights to access to the compulsory third party scheme if the event is caused by an act of terrorism. So we are to waive people's rights to access insurance when injured in a motor vehicle. I am sure it is easy to sit back and think, "It won't occur, so why worry?"
What is the likelihood of such an event occurring? The likelihood of such an event occurring is such that the NRMA Corporation has decided that it will pull out of the market if we do not remove these rights. The ACT Democrats have worked constructively in assessing the insurance crisis. I am appalled at the way insurance companies are able to hold governments to ransom through their own business decisions.
I opposed the Workers Compensation (Acts of Terrorism) Amendment Bill, which saw the ACT government enter the reinsurance market. The bill saw every ACT taxpayer take responsibility for finding money to pay compensation for personal injury or death, in the event that an act of terrorism occurred. This current bill is similar, except no-one is insured, and no-one is reinsured, for such an occurrence. This will leave the injured or relative of the dead with two options-sue the terrorists, or fend for themselves. That will see the onus for protection fall back on the government and, in turn, on the taxpayer.