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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3015 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

If members of this chamber think that this is a way to get around addressing the insurance crisis, then they've got Buckley's. I'm very concerned that there are members of this place with a supposedly detailed work background that would actually do this.

Mr Speaker, have these people actually spoken to victims of accidents that have actually suffered serious consequences and serious injuries that affect them for the rest of their life? I doubt it. And if they have, they've probably only spoken to one or two. Well, let me tell you: this is not the answer to addressing the insurance crisis. You are going about this in the wrong way, and I'm very concerned that members of this place, particularly with a legal background, would go about arbitrarily deciding on a figure-the magic figure. It's like deciding on a magic this and a magic that. How you've come up with it, God knows.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (12.20): The government won't be supporting the amendment, Mr Speaker. I might just add by way of digression: I wait with bated breath Mrs Cross' proposals for resolving the insurance crisis. I wait with bated breath a single proposal for dealing with this incredibly difficult and complex issue that is having such a profound effect on our very way of life. It's a major problem for the nation and for communities. The package that the government's delivered today is a very responsible response to the issues that we collectively face in relation to the non-availability of public liability and medical indemnity insurance.

In relation to the proposal that Mr Stefaniak makes today: the government, as I indicated during the week, has accepted reluctantly, most reluctantly, that we legislate for thresholds and caps. I was very open about the reasons for that. I've resisted them strenuously for the last two years.

Mr Quinlan, as Treasurer, at all insurance and treasury council meetings, has resisted thresholds and caps strenuously. I, as Minister for Health, and Mr Corbell, as Minister for Health, have at health ministerial councils resisted thresholds and caps. In fact, we are the jurisdiction-the only jurisdiction, as it transpires-that fought and fought and argued again and again against thresholds and caps as a winding back, a diminution of the rights of individuals to pursue action in circumstances where they have been injured or suffered loss as a result of the negligence or incompetence of others.

These are difficult and fundamental issues around the rights of individuals, and we have fought long and hard-to the point where we were the only jurisdiction left standing. Every other state and territory in Australia flopped. They fell over. At the end of the day we found ourselves in the ditch alone-just the ACT hanging out, continuing to argue the position of principle. We fought long and hard and, as it transpires, unsuccessfully-to a point where we measured, as we do in so much of what we do in this place, the rights of a group of individuals potentially affected, particularly by the actions of doctors, against a greater public interest, the interest of the community as a whole. This is when decision making and policy get incredibly difficult-the rights of the individual as against the rights or the greater interests of the community as a whole.

We face, without a doubt, as a result of the decisions we have previously taken in relation to thresholds and caps, a circumstance where premiums in the ACT for GPs, for

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