Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 2873 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
viable. I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We are seeing it now with people injured at work getting rehabilitation and the care and the compassion they deserve when they need it, not at the end of a process which is bitter, painful and excludes people from society, not at the end of a process where you have to fight every step of the way for a less than acceptable outcome that may include a lump sum.
What we need is a system, just like with the CTP and just like with workers compensation, that actually looks after people when they need it, when they are first injured, because all of the studies show that early intervention and immediate care get better results and those better results will lessen the need for compensation, because people actually get well. Shouldn't that be what it is about? It should not be about the lawyers, the doctors or whatever other argument you want to throw into the mix.
The duty of care we have is to look after Canberrans, particularly those who are the least well off, and that includes those who are injured, whether it be through a medical incident or whether it be from tripping over a loose paver in a public place, until we come to a conclusion. I do acknowledge tonight the Chief Minister's comments in his press release, which indicate that it is okay now for the ACT to go it on its own. With great joy, I might bring back my bills early in February, Mr Speaker, because what we got from the Chief Minister tonight was confirmation that it is acceptable to go it alone and it will work or could work if we get it right. The challenge I would put to the Assembly is: how do we get it right?
The answer is not to fob doctors off against lawyers or vice versa. The answer is to try to work out what is the solution for injured individuals, injured Canberrans, that best suits their needs and does not place an additional burden on their families. The way to do that is through early intervention, to accept a system like we have for compulsory third party and workers compensation, and stop tinkering at the edges with tort law reform because ultimately nothing in these bills will have a dramatic effect to take the volatility out of the market, to reduce premiums, to reduce payouts, to reduce the times in which court cases take.
There is not a great deal in it. Yes, there are some time limits, some statute limits. Yes, we now see that there are going to be caps. But until we get to the root of the problem, until we get to the early intervention, until we work together to make injured Canberrans better, faster, quicker, with all the care and attention they deserve, and if necessary, at the end of the process, compensate them if they have not been able to regain the fullness of life that they had before the accident, the incident or whatever, we will be coming back to tinker with tort law reform year after year after year.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (9.52), in reply: I do wonder whether having to sit here and listen to that tripe is actionable, whether having to listen to rubbish like that constitutes an actionable case for the damage that we suffer. Perhaps we are restricted to 10 minutes to protect us.
I should just correct a couple of points-the falsehoods, the mistakes, the rambling, the holding up of a press release from me and saying that I have now confirmed that it is okay for the ACT to go it alone. The press release says that I have asked officials to give the advice. There is a significant difference between that and standing in this