Tuesday 23 November 2004

Mr FINCH asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Council -

(1) Are Tasmanians accepting more personal responsibility for their actions in respect to public risk since the passing of the Civil Liability Amendment Bill 2003?

(2) (a) Has there been a reduction in the number, and the size, of civil liability claims following the passage of the bill?

(b) Has the civil liability crisis now been satisfactorily dealt with?

(3) If the answer to 2(b) is no, what is the Government doing to further address the issue of civil liability claims?

Mr AIRD replied -

So far as Tasmania is concerned, given that the majority of the Ipp recommendations came into effect on the commencement of the Civil Liability Amendment Bill 2003 on 4 July 2003, it is not possible yet to gauge the impact of the reforms on the number and size of civil liability claims being lodged with the court.

The reforms relate to negligence claims arising from personal injury and death, and it is usual in personal injury claims for the plaintiff and his or her lawyer to 'wait and see' how the injury resolves before determining whether or not action is justified. As it is only 15 months since the changes came into effect and the changes do not generally apply retrospectively, personal injury actions arising after commencement will only now be getting to the stage of being lodged with the court.

However, figures from New South Wales and Queensland indicate a downward trend in the number of claims lodged since the introduction of the civil liability reforms. Other States and Territories, like Tasmania, report that it is too soon after the introduction of reforms for any conclusions about their impact to be drawn.

The Government is of the view that it has done what it can to address the public liability insurance crisis. This view is supported by the following:

· Through the Government's Public Liability Insurance Facilitation Scheme - PLIFS - the Government has ensured that community and sporting groups have been provided with advice and financial assistance to enable them to continue during the worst phase of the public liability crisis.

· A report by the ACCC released on 12 August 2004 indicated that the rate of increase in public liability insurance premiums slowed during 2003 and that most insurers believed that the tort law reforms introduced by the various governments would reduce public liability insurance costs and premiums in the short term.

· Representatives of the insurance industry assured relevant ministers at a ministerial meeting on 27 February 2004 that tort law reform is improving insurance conditions in the Australian market and that some capacity and price stability is returning in the areas of public liability insurance.

· A July 2004 survey conducted by JP Morgan Chase and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu found that insurance premiums for commercial-type insurance such as professional indemnity, commercial motor vehicle and workers compensation have fallen by an average of 5 per cent in the past 12 months.

The Insurance Council of Australia has also reported that public liability premiums have started to decline.