Page 1549 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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in finding out how discussions about the longer-term solution to this problem at a national and interstate level proceed.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.22), in reply: I thank members for their support for this bill. It does make a minor but important amendment to the Workers Compensation Act 1951. As other speakers have said, it extends the operation of the temporary provisions for acts of terrorism.

In June 2002 the act was amended to include temporary reinsurance provisions for acts of terrorism. The purpose of the temporary reinsurance provisions for acts of terrorism is to ensure that, if a worker is injured or killed during an act of terrorism, the worker or the worker’s family will be able to claim their existing entitlements under the Workers Compensation Act. Without this provision, workers injured at work by the actions of a terrorist or terrorist group would be denied the right to claim compensation for their injuries. That was not a situation that this government could support.

These provisions were passed following the withdrawal of the private sector reinsurance coverage for acts of terrorism in early 2002, in the wake of the World Trade Centre attacks. The provisions ensure that workers compensation insurers can meet their obligations to fully insure for all work-related risks by establishing a reinsurance fund that will come into operation only in the event of a terrorist attack.

The provisions were initially given a temporary lifespan, covering attacks until 1 April 2004, to encourage private sector reinsurers back into the market at the earliest opportunity. In 2003 the Assembly agreed to extend the provisions to 1 April 2006. Recent world political events mean that only a couple of overseas companies are offering terrorism insurance as an individual product, but with limited coverage and prohibitive premiums. Without temporary terrorism provisions, ACT employers and businesses would be obliged to pay excessively high workers compensation premiums.

This bill proposes the extension, for a further three years, of the operation of the temporary reinsurance provisions that come into effect if territory workers are injured or killed in a terrorist attack. The amended provisions would apply to terrorist events that occur before 1 April 2009. Such an extension will retain confidence in the ACT workers compensation scheme. The temporary terrorism provisions already include a sunset provision. This bill proposes moving the expiry date of the provisions from 1 October 2006 to 1 October 2009.

As it is unlikely that private sector companies will be offering realistic and affordable terrorism coverage for some time yet, the government has retained the sunset provisions to continue pressure on the market to develop reinsurance products in the future. These provisions need to be passed as soon as possible because the insurance industry inform me that insurers are already writing workers compensation policies covering periods after 1 April 2006, when the current provisions cease to apply.

I thank members for their support. I thank the scrutiny of bills committee for dealing with this bill as quickly as it did. It will ensure that ACT workers continue to be fully protected in the event of a terrorist attack.

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