Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 423 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
mention one word-Bali-and the date of 12 October 2002, our very own September 11. The brutal and senseless events at Kuta Beach on 12 October last year reminded us that terrorism is not someone else's problem. It is not something that happens only on distant shores. It is our problem. It is something that each and every one of us potentially has to face, even here in the ACT-and in respect of third party insurance.
We do not overstate the risks. The terrorism experts-it is sad that we need such people-tell us that the risk of a major terrorist attack in Australia is still much lower than in many other parts of the world. However, a low risk is not no risk. Because Canberra houses the national parliament, many other national institutions, embassies and the like, the risk of terrorism here in the ACT may be somewhat higher than in other parts of Australia. That is what this bill is essentially about. It addresses some of the unpalatable facts we have to face in coming to terms with the threat of terrorism.
Under the law as it stands in the ACT, a truck bomb, like the larger of the two bombs that were triggered in Bali, would give rise to claims under our third party insurance scheme. At the moment, that is everyone's legal right. Unfortunately, that is not financially sustainable. It is a simple, incontrovertible fact that the third party insurance scheme could not cope with the sorts of claims to which a terrorist act on the scale of the Bali bombings would give rise. Without reinsurance, it is unlikely that NRMA Insurance could offer cover at a rate the community could afford. I do not like-I am sure none of us do-removing or suspending people's compensation rights. That is why this bill includes a sunset clause. It will apply only to claims arising from acts of terrorism prior to 1 October 2004.
I am hopeful, but would hesitate to say I am confident, that within that timeframe a degree of pre-September 11 and pre-Bali normality may start to return to the international insurance and reinsurance markets. If so, NRMA may again be able to obtain reinsurance for the CTP portfolio on commercially acceptable terms. In that event, we could see the legislation disappear. The government and NRMA Insurance Ltd will continue to pay close attention to this question, particularly as October 2004 approaches. If, on the other hand, there appears no prospect of a return to normality by that date, it may be necessary to extend the temporary measures this bill proposes.
This bill is the best option available. I know, Ms Dundas, that nobody is happy about it. It was a difficult decision to make, but I do not believe there is any alternative. The bill, as we all know, proposes that there will be no right of action for death or injury arising out of the use of a motor vehicle where the death or injury is caused by an act of terrorism.
This means there will be no right of action for death or injury against the owner or driver of a motor vehicle who is innocently caught up in an act of terrorism-either individually or against his or her insurer. This approach is consistent with the approach adopted in Queensland and New South Wales-the other two Australian states where insurance of this nature is underwritten by private insurers. Similar legislation was passed by the Tasmanian parliament towards the end of last year.
Mr Speaker, we reluctantly accept this bill, which will become an Act of the territory. Let us hope the situation improves over the next year or two.