Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3016 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
specialists, would be ramped up as against the premiums that would be charged in New South Wales-an intolerable situation in terms of those that practise here in the ACT. Just imagine it; just put yourselves in the situation of doctors operating in this place. We, the government, were seeking to ensure that the public health services available to people of Canberra were maintained, weren't disrupted. Just sort of bargain this off: the imposition of thresholds, the imposition of a cap, against wholesale disruption of, particularly, our public health system, particularly the operations of obstetricians and anaesthetists; our capacity to attract to our hospitals and to our public health system doctors from interstate; our capacity to retain those doctors that we currently have.
What if UMP carry through on their statement-and it was a threat; they might say they were simply advising us of their future business decisions or directions, but it was a threat-"If you don't go this extra yard in your legislation, we will price you out"? It's easy to adopt a high moral position on this. We won't succumb to that sort of bullying; we won't succumb to that sort of business approach. You take the risk; you take the risk of your doctors going on strike on 31 December; you take the risk of your GPs simply bailing out and not being replaced; you take the risk of no anaesthetists turning up in the holiday period. Then you stand up in this community and say, "Well, for the sake of the principle, we'll risk that. We'll actually allow that to occur. We won't take the interests of the community to heart, and we won't respond on behalf of the whole community."
Having said that, we're doing some detailed analysis of claims history in the ACT. The courts, both the Supreme Court and the Magistrates Court, have been asked now to produce some of the data that we need to make a considered decision or conclusion around thresholds and caps. I think we do need to do some work.
It's interesting to note, for instance-and members would be interested to know-that over the last three years we've averaged, in filings in the Supreme Court, between 30 and 40 filings a year. These are claims against medical practitioners for alleged negligence in the delivery of medical services. There's been very little variation. Three people a month in the ACT sue their doctor through the Supreme Court. We're seeking further information in relation to filings in the Magistrates Court. It's difficult and complex to extract that information.
It will be interesting to know who is suing; what they're suing for; what the quantum of claims that they're making is; and, of course, interestingly, how many are settled before they get to court. This is the sort of information that we don't have and the sort of information that we need.
As I've said, we will move to thresholds and caps. The government will introduce-at this stage, I'm hoping in September, when we come back in four or five weeks time-a separate amendment to this bill. I'm standing up and opposing it today. It may be that in four weeks time, after doing some further analysis, after we discuss with the insurance industry around Australia what they will deliver to us for this concession, I won't be.
This is one of the great difficulties we have: most of us are very cynical about any intention that the insurance industry has to deliver any benefits to communities for these major tort law reform exercises that are going on in every state.