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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3017 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

We want an opportunity over this next month to enter into some detailed discussions with the insurance industry that operates here in the ACT. We'd like to talk to the AMA about some other aspects of other proposals that we have in relation to that-for instance, in relation to full and detailed accounting by doctors of all adverse incidents that do occur. I think health ministers and heads of health departments are working currently on proposals in relation to that.

I believe that it would be appropriate for us to consider legislating a circumstance where we do insist that there be that formal mandatory reporting in relation to all adverse incidents and that would, of course, be a quid pro quo to the steps that we take in relation to the imposition of thresholds and caps, but we need some time. On that basis, the government will oppose this particular proposal for a cap today.

We would like to look at other models; we would like to enter into some detailed conversations with the insurance industry; we want to talk to the AMA; we want to look at other amendments that we might move in association with a move to a threshold or a cap to ensure that this is not just a gift to insurance companies to further enhance the very, very attractive profits that they've already achieved over this last year. But certainly it's not something that we've come to willingly; everybody knows that.

There are a whole range of issues. We did, in our first round of reforms, of course, as members know, cap economic loss at three times weekly earnings. So there is a cap in the legislation as it stands in relation to economic loss of three times average weekly earnings. But we didn't at that time, as you know, proceed, as all other jurisdictions had, to extend that cap to general damages-essentially, those issues, as Mr Stefaniak explained in his presentation, that go to pain and suffering and that do traditionally fall within the parameters of general damages.

Certainly it's a very difficult and problematic area of law-the extent to which different individuals do have different pain thresholds; we do respond differently to pain and to trauma; and we do suffer differently. Some of us have a capacity to simply accept pain and move on, but it doesn't, though, bear us down; we have a capacity to adapt, whereas others don't. We acknowledge that. Some people don't have the same capacity or the adaptability. The common law has recognised that through this differential approach that's applied to issues around pain and suffering.

These are difficult issues, and the government will now grasp with thresholds. But we want to do it in a scientific and clinical way. We'll look for that extra time to do that.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2.30 pm.

Ministerial arrangements

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs): For the information of members, my colleague Mr Corbell, the Minister for Health, has an engagement which requires him to depart

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