Reform of the ACT’s compulsory third party insurance scheme appears stalled after a Legislative Assembly committee inquiry into the proposed legislation split, with a damning dissenting report from its chair, Liberal MLA Giulia Jones, who called on the Assembly to reject the draft Bill altogether.
The lengthy reform process has included public consultation, the ACT’s first Citizens Jury process and the committee inquiry into the draft Motor Accident Injuries Bill. The Government’s proposals for a cheaper no-fault scheme have met sustained opposition from lawyers and unions concerned at a loss of victims’ rights to pursue adequate compensation.
The committees’ report backs reform of the current ‘unfair’ scheme but found the draft Bill wanting, saying any new scheme should ensure seriously injured people can still seek compensation that reflects their ongoing needs and loss of quality of life, retain appeal rights and the right to legal representation.
It also recommended that any new system be subject to mandatory review, including insurer profits, which if necessary should be capped as in other jurisdictions. Appeals should be heard in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which should be able to award costs.
In response to union concerns, the committee said victims injured to and from work should have more than the one month proposed to choose between the Motor Accident Injuries scheme and the workers’ compensation scheme.
It also wants greater protections for cyclists who may not be wearing a helmet when injured.
“The ACT’s current CTP scheme is clearly deficient in that it only covers people injured in an accident who can prove someone else was at fault,” it said.
It said that new scheme outlined in the Motor Accident Injuries Bill expanded coverage to all Canberrans but lacked important details and safeguards.
But Mrs Jones went further, attacking the Citizen’s Jury process that shaped the legislation, the subsequent limitations placed on the committee in its inquiry and the Bill itself.
“The role of elected representatives is not to approve a politically manipulated ‘citizen’s jury’ process, but to represent their electors and the ACT as a whole,” she said.
Mrs Jones said the only winners of the proposed scheme would be the big insurers.
“This Bill is an abject failure at its most basic intent to provide Canberra road users with an insurance product that will compensate them for injury incurred,” she said.
“A substantial majority of the victims injured will receive significantly less, and indeed they will be at the mercy of the large insurance corporations to a much greater extent under the proposed Bill than at present.”
Mrs Jones said that it was no wonder that the only support for the proposed scheme came from the insurance companies, ‘given that it will, as described by them, smooth out their profits’.
She called on the Assembly to reject the Bill and the Government to go back to the drawing board and propose a scheme that would benefit all Canberrans.
The inquiry received 74 submissions, with only the Government, insurance companies and Jury stakeholders supportive of the proposals.
Other committee members included Elizabeth Lee (Liberal), Bec Cody (Labor), Nicole Lawder (Liberal), Chris Steel (ALP) and Michael Pettersson (Labor).
The report and dissenting report can be found here.