Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2125 ..
MR SPEAKER: Just give him a go.
Mr Smyth: No, he certainly is not.
MR SPEAKER: We get back to this question that you might want to dictate exactly how people explain things to you, but that is an impossibility. The Chief Minister is dealing with the subject matter of the question, and I am going to allow him to continue.
MRSTANHOPE: Today the government has circulated a draft bill which reflects all of the provisions that are included in its second round of significant reforms to tort law in the ACT. It is a very significant package of legislation and a very significant package of reform-very far reaching, with significant impacts on the operation of the laws of tort in the ACT.
One of the reforms, Mr Speaker, will involve a reduction in the statute of limitations pertaining to adults from six to three years and will also contain a reduction in the statute of limitations applying to children from what might be said to be 24 years, although, in fact, not necessarily. The current statute of limitations goes to the possibility of 24 years, insofar as it kicks in at the age of 18, the age of majority, and then does allow a six-year period running from then.
The ACT government has proposed-and we look forward to Assembly support in relation to these proposals-that we reduce that, essentially, to a six-year period, but with a whole range of riders. It is not just a simple reduction to six years-cut off, black and white. There are a significant number of riders to that.
It also does, for instance, provide that the period will run from the date of notification of the incident that led to the action or the attempted actionable consequence. Over and above that, there will be a number of other provisions that apply in relation to the giving of notice; the implications of not giving notice to the other side; the capacity for a respondent to insist that action be commenced once it is notified; and, similarly, an opportunity for special circumstances to be taken into account in the event that action wasn't commenced within that six-year period.
It attempts to pick up unintended, unforeseen or unforeseeable circumstances such as the possibility, or prospect even, of circumstances where a child does not have a parent and perhaps is in the care or control of a guardian and, for whatever reason, the guardian did not pursue legal action or did not give notice. That, of course, goes to the heart of the historical reason why we have a statutory limitation period at the moment of 18 years plus 6. It assumes that any person should not, in pursuing a legal right, have to rely on a decision taken by another.
So, at the age of 18, on reaching adulthood, we all notionally accept responsibility for our actions and, in those circumstances, should have the capacity to pursue legal action if we so think. Of course, that is the historical basis on which we have the 18 plus six-year limitation period. And there is some good sense in that. The proposals that we are now making do allow for a situation in which a young person-without a guardian and perhaps without parents who have the care and control or custody of that child and don't