Page 19 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 2008

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Let me say finally on this point that the matter of third-party insurance impacts on virtually every household in Canberra and often on many members of that household. The process of reform is long overdue, but it is welcome. I know that any step that ultimately leads to an improvement in rates and a more competitive environment—one of the issues first raised with me when I was elected here in 2004—will enjoy the support of the broader community.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.30): The opposition will support the Road Transport (Third-Party Insurance) Bill 2007; I advise that I will propose an amendment to insert a review provision in the bill. Even though we support the bill, I should note right up-front that I have some hesitation about its content; the nature of my hesitation will become evident during my remarks. I thank the government for arranging a very detailed briefing on the bill and congratulate the public servants who were quite able to answer the questions that I asked.

While this is not a particularly complex bill, it is a very long bill, at more than 200 pages. I suspect that there must be some sort of competition between ministers to see who can have the longest bills. My concern is to maximise opportunities for the community to be able to comprehend legislation that governs their lives and behaviour and to minimise opportunities for misunderstandings to arise.

While I thank the government for the briefing on this bill, I must note a significant concern. It was only during that briefing—and not even at the beginning of the briefing—that we learnt that the government was proposing some quite significant amendments to the bill. We subsequently received 14 pages of amendments to the bill which I believe have now been circulated here. I will comment on those amendments in a moment.

Let me turn to the legislative regime proposed in this bill. The government is proposing to implement a regime that it is hoped will result in lower third-party premiums and will be easier to administer. Although I note that the Chief Minister—in his presentation speech, as he closes—claims that the regime will save insurers money, will lower premiums and will open the door to competition, that is yet to be seen.

The government also claims that the regime should lead to those who have been injured in accidents being able to begin rehabilitation activities at the earliest possible time, to facilitate a return to health, to usual activity and to work. These objectives are being sought predominantly through drawing on the learning gained from modern, third-party schemes that are now operating in New South Wales and Queensland. At this point, I observe that the regimes in those two states do not necessarily lead to the lowest third-party premiums in the country: there are states with cheaper premiums. The New South Wales and Queensland schemes are based on establishing fault and determining compensation, and hence are fault-based schemes. In two states, there are no-fault schemes and in some states there are government-controlled schemes.

I remain to be completely convinced that the approach incorporated in this bill is the best scheme for the ACT, but at the same time I accept that, all things being equal, any scheme of ours should, as nearly as possible, be equivalent to that operating in

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