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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2603 ..



every ACT taxpayer took responsibility to find money to pay compensation for personal injury or death in the event that an act of terrorism occurred.

I wondered what the ACT taxpayer was receiving for assuming this risk. I learnt that the answer was: absolutely nothing. As taxpayers, we assumed a risk previously borne by insurance companies but received no payment for that risk. I have not heard of insurance premiums for employers dropping as a result of the ACT government assuming this new liability. In that way, the bill arguably created a small windfall for insurance companies.

Last year's bill provided a mechanism for the recovery of money from insurers in the event that compensation was paid for an act of terrorism, yet the bill was silent on the proportion of any compensation payout that would be recovered from insurers. Hence, it was not clear how much risk the ACT taxpayer was assuming.

At the time, I pointed out that, if there were a terrorist attack in the ACT, it was likely to target a Commonwealth government building rather than a privately owned or ACT government building. It was, and still is, possible that the ACT government would be required to pay the full cost of compensation for the deaths of, or injuries to, people contracting to the federal government.

Most of those people might be ACT residents, but the federal government should be wearing some of that risk. It would be more appropriate for the Commonwealth to pay part, or all, of the cost, if the government is to meet the cost at all. However, it is my understanding that the federal government has not been approached for any assurance regarding contributions to any future compensation payouts.

I do not dispute the fact that every employee in the ACT should be fully insured against injury or death occurring in the workplace, but there is more than one way to achieve that goal. I believe that last year's changes were made without proper consideration, and that that was a bad law. A law that was bad a year ago is one which I believe is still bad, even though we have been fortunate enough not to have been affected by an act of terrorism in the meantime.

In fact, this bill is even more disappointing than last year's bill. Despite 12 months having elapsed, the government has failed to investigate what would represent an appropriate premium on insurers or employers to compensate the government for the assumed risk of providing reinsurance cover.

While there is an end date of 2006 in the legislation, this scheme could easily drag on beyond the extension period. It would become the norm for the government to provide terrorism reinsurance at no cost to employers or insurers. I do not think this is a good precedent to set.

I will be opposing this bill, which extends the government's reinsurance scheme for a further two years. This is because I am dissatisfied that the government has failed to collect any payment in exchange for the additional risk all taxpayers have assumed, and because I believe there are other ways we could be dealing with this problem. As I have said, this piece of legislation is not the best for the ACT taxpayer.

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