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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2561 ..



obstetricians, paediatricians and anaesthetists can no longer afford to practise. Why is the ACT the only jurisdiction making contingency plans for the shutdown of key elements of its health system next week if you are putting forward the best and fairest of all regimes?


: That is a very good question, in the context of the fact that the package that is being delivered by the ACT is, I believe, amongst the best of the responses by any of the jurisdictions in Australia to issues related to tort law reform and negligence, and the arrangements that should be put in place in relation to tort law, the law of negligence and the capacity for Australians and, in this instance, members of the ACT community, to take action in those circumstances where they suffer a loss or an injury as the result of the negligence of another.

This is what the law of negligence is all about. This is what the tort law reforms we are engaged in are all about. They are all about ensuring that we have in place a system that allows those within this community who suffer loss, who suffer injury, who suffer damage as a result of the negligent act of another to seek reasonable compensation for that loss, damage or injury. This covers, of course, all loss, all damages and all injury, across the board, not just in relation to hospitals or the practice of medicine, however and wherever they are occurring in the ACT.

At the base of the approach that the ACT government has taken is the need to ensure equity, justice and a capacity to seek just compensation and just return in circumstances where one suffers injury or loss. We need to keep in mind that this is what we are talking about. We are talking about how to create a tort law system that creates balance and an opportunity or capacity for people to pursue, in a reasonable way and to a reasonable extent, injuries or losses they suffer, while at the same time meeting the needs of particularly those professional groups, businesses and others in the community who have been affected by the rise in insurance premiums as a result of the insurance crisis.

It is a detailed and complex issue and, in order to respond to it, one does need to understand the causes of the crisis. Why is it that the insurance premiums went through the roof? Insurance premiums went through the roof essentially as a result of a range of factors related to the availability of insurance, which are related to events overseas-the terrorist attack in New York-and then the subsequent collapse of our biggest insurance company, HIH, followed by the collapse of the largest of the-

Mrs Dunne

: HIH is not a medical defence organisation.


: I think Mrs Dunne's interjection actually illustrates the difficulty we have in relation to this issue. Mrs Dunne is here asserting that the collapse of HIH has nothing to do with the increase in premiums. How basic is that? How basic a lack of understanding of issues related to the rise in insurance premiums is that? The largest insurance provider in Australia collapsed, went bankrupt, is insolvent, is out of business and this has nothing to do the rise in insurance premiums? It goes to the heart of the difficulty we are having with this debate: that level of ignorance, that level of misunderstanding, that incapacity to grasp the basics of the issue, that this is about insurance affordability.

The HIH collapse, of course, was then followed in very quick time by the collapse of UMP, the largest of the MDOs. UMP then collapsed. It could not meet the calls that were

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