Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 21 August 2008) . . Page.. 3495 ..
Mr Deputy Speaker, we could go on all day about the need for lawyers to provide better services to their clients and how this might be achieved. The government could simply have stood fast and let the CTP scheme commence as planned. However, the departments advised me that they gave undertakings to the Australian Lawyers Alliance and other relevant members of the profession that they would provide for regulation in advance of the scheme’s commencement and the government will stand by those undertakings. Departmental officers stand ready to discuss the regulations over the next five weeks. Accordingly, copies of the regulations will today be provided to the ACT legal profession, to NRMA Insurance and to prospective entrant insurers.
Mr Stefaniak has made much of the need for the regulation to be made available to the legal profession to give them time to meet their obligations to their clients under the new scheme. I can say, however, that the only relevant part of the regulation for local lawyers is part 6, 10 regulations pertaining to claims. The provision of the regulations needed to mirror their Queensland counterparts and the local profession was advised two years ago that the government intended to enact, and duly did enact, the majority of the Queensland claims provisions.
This has not jumped at the legal profession in the ACT out of the blue but there is a need for 2008 levels of accountability in relation to a modern compulsory statutory insurance scheme, whereas they had previously enjoyed the benefits of a 1948 law, virtually zero cost constraints and a monopoly insurance provider.
There were, and we acknowledge this, delays in producing the regulation. Three areas spring to mind and I will elaborate on them briefly for members. They represent two themes: protection of injured victims’ rights, small claims and ensuring reduced barriers to entry. The first category was the innovation that provides the first $5,000 of medical expenses to motor accident victims on a no-fault basis. No regulations existed in Australia on which Treasury could draw. The regulations had to be drafted from scratch.
Additional to that were the unique provisions to protect small claimants who decided to sue and not to settle their claims. The regulation needed to provide proper uplift fee incentives for lawyers whose clients are faced with low-ball settlement offers from insurers that might seek to take advantage of the scheme. These are unique provisions and there was considerable difficulty settling them.
The second category involved considerable additional work to ensure that insurer claims information requirements conformed primarily to the Queensland Motor Accident Insurance Commission’s online claims data and management system. Queensland and New South Wales share the base operating system for claims data and management. Queensland insurers can access the system over the internet. The ACT government wishes to provide the same level of access to insurers who choose to do business here. The savings to ACT consumers will be considerable.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the government believes that extending the time for implementation of the scheme beyond the shortest practical time is not appropriate. Firstly, the sooner the legislation is effective, the sooner the provisions supporting