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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2004 ..



It is important for us to recognise that, within insurance, what we have had is a failure of capital. We have not necessarily had an explosion of liability. It is also unfortunate that there has been reaction focused on liability, when we have, in fact, seen the capital backing of the insurance industry fail. Perhaps in other states, oppositions have put on stunts like this. I am not sure, I have not heard of them. However, the jurisdictions and the Commonwealth have worked together on a coordinated wide front.

We will not solve this by inventing a scheme which cannot be funded or underwritten-a scheme to which no participants can adhere and one which is, I have to say, fiscally irresponsible. The government's approach has been to work with the states and the Commonwealth, to work within the frameworks of a couple of in-depth reports by Justice Ipp and Professor Neave-the Neave report and the Ipp report-which examined public liability and, in particular, medical professional liability with a view to building frameworks that would be sustained in the long run.

There is a real danger here. The insurance market has suffered failure and the insurance underwriters wish to recoup considerable losses. the number of available underwriters, in some cases, has diminished from 37 to two in the area of liability insurance.

The jurisdictions that wish to put into place responsible legislation to cover their citizens are at a disadvantage because the insurance market has been effectively calling the shots. Remember that Australia is a very small part of the world-wide insurance market and that the ACT is a very small part of the Australian insurance market. for us to have any unique process might mean that there would very quickly be no underwriter.

Everybody in this place would be aware of the difficulties some organisations, businesses and professions have had in finding cover, even though they have exemplary claims records and there is no obvious reason why their insurance cover would not be reviewed, other than the fact that the whole process has become arbitrary. If they don't fit the model, the underwriters in London, Geneva and New York don't cover them. Tariffs are being increased significantly; people are backing out of insurance underwriting and it is therefore a sellers' market. In that sellers' market for the ACT-a small part of Australia and a small part of the world market, Mr Speaker-I would say it would be dumb, in the extreme, to be trying to get out there and go it alone with the processes we want to put in place.

I could go through a number of elements of the various bills and advise the house exactly where they fail, but I do not know that that is going to serve any great purpose. I am happy to circulate it, but I understand the numbers are in this place for this legislation to not go forward. it is my suspicion that, despite protestations, the opposition does not expect, or want, this bill to get up because they accept that it is a nonsense-and that nothing but a puerile attempt has been made on it.

Mr Smyth

: Crap! Your defence is that we did not think we wanted to do it anyway?

MR SPEAKER: That is unparliamentary, Mr Smyth-withdraw that.

Mr Smyth

: I will withdraw the "crap", Mr Speaker.

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