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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2563 ..

Mr Quinlan

: You have my apologies, Mr Speaker.


: I will conclude on this point: the situation in the ACT is essentially not in any significant way different from that in a number of other states, with one major exception. That exception is that our legislation, our package, is better thought out, more comprehensive and better than theirs.


: Before you ask your supplementary question, Mr Smyth, I would like to welcome students in the gallery from Canberra Girls Grammar.


: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, why are so many women having obstetric procedures at private hospitals over the next three days if they did not believe that you have totally failed to protect their interests in this matter?

Mrs Dunne

: Is that a good question, too?


: Well, it is an interesting question. In looking at the approach and attitude that the ACT government has taken to reform of the laws of negligence, it is interesting that, in standing firm on a need to ensure balance between the rights of the patient or the rights of the citizen and the rights of the professional delivering a service, we have stood firmer than any other jurisdiction in Australia for the patient. And that is, of course, at the heart of the problem. The doctors want us to limit the rights of patients further than we have.

You need to understand the fundamentals of the debate. What the doctors are asking us to do now is to further reduce the rights and capacity of patients to sue. That is what they are asking us to do. We have reduced the rights of patients, we have reduced the rights of individuals, we have reduced the rights of potential litigants very significantly in this package.

I have made this point again and again: the tort law reform exercise that we are engaged in around Australia is essentially about reducing the rights of individual citizens. That is what it is about. Be under no misapprehensions about this: what we are doing is reducing rights. We are taking away existing rights. What doctors are saying is, "You haven't taken away enough rights". They want us to reduce further the rights that currently exist and the government is saying we believe that we have struck an appropriate balance. This, we believe, is a balanced response. That is what we are doing.

The doctors are saying, "Take away more of our patients' rights."The government is saying, "We believe we have taken away enough of the rights of individual Canberrans and individual Australians to pursue legal action where somebody, acting negligently, has done something to them which caused them loss or damage or injury. It is very simple: somebody does something and they have acted negligently, and by acting negligently they injure you, they cause you loss, they cause you damage. As things stand, we have a right to sue in certain circumstances. The doctors want us to reduce those rights to sue them when they do something negligently that injures one of their patients. We are saying the balance is right.

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