Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2006 ..
The intent of part 17, dealing with procedure for compensation, makes it mandatory for all appeals to go to the Supreme Court. The problem is that a Supreme Court action would have significantly greater expense than if the matter had been able to be heard by the Magistrates Court, which acts as a safety net-where they are able to seek judicial consideration of their complaints.
The Legal Practitioners Amendment Bill prohibits the advertising of services by legal practitioners as no-win, no-fee-the reason for which we do not know. In fact, it has become fashionable to blame lawyers for many of the problems faced by today's society. According to some commentators, if lawyers are not responsible for problems in relation to public liability insurance for small businesses, then they are certainly responsible for the problems associated with medical insurance for doctors.
There is little ACT evidence to support the claim that advertising by lawyers is leading to an explosion of litigation-nonsense-which, in turn, is leading to increased insurance premiums. That is not the cause. By this, I should not be taken to say that there is not a problem elsewhere around Australia. I am saying that there does not appear to be a problem in this jurisdiction. The ACT is different from the rest of Australia. It is different because advertising of this type has been allowed for many years.
The ACT knows this is not a significant impost on the ACT system. The concept of an explosion of litigation is not supported by credible data. Productivity Commission figures reporting the number of court lodgements for each of the past five years indicate that there has been only a moderate increase in litigation during that period. This increase includes a litigation spike caused by changes to the New South Wales workers compensation scheme, and considerable fluctuations in figures from Queensland because of changes to that state's reporting system.
Accounting for these two factors, the increase in lodgements is even less significant. Lawyers' fees are regulated in the ACT. The Supreme Court and the Law Society of the ACT closely supervise the fees charged by lawyers, unlike in New South Wales, where contingency uplift fees may be charged. There is no provision for lawyers in the ACT to increase their fees solely because they take a case on a no-win, no-fee basis.
The problems within the insurance industry are the result of a set of issues more complex than the matter of advertising by lawyers. These range from changes in the insurance industry itself the management of risk in our hospitals to the manner in which we compensate claims.
The ACT has published a comprehensive three-stage plan which strikes at the causes of the current insurance crisis. It is not enough to simply treat the symptoms and then move on. The ACT government will not be stampeded into legal administrative reforms that do not strike at the heart of the causes of increased insurance premiums. It is too easy to blame lawyers in this debate.
Is has been generally agreed-by the ACT Supreme Court no less-that no win, no fee is probably a socially positive thing to have in place, because it provides access to the courts for people who might otherwise be deterred from making a claim. So provided that, on one hand, we have regulated fees, and we can, on the other hand, make sure