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Lawyers fight off insurance reforms


Noel Towell

File photo. Canberra traffic.

File photo. Canberra traffic. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Canberra's lawyers spent at least $131,000 on a multimedia campaign opposing attempts to reform the territory's compulsory motor insurance and workers' compensations schemes.

The revelation came a day after the ACT government walked away from its attempts to reduce car registration bills by reforming Canberra's compulsory third party motor insurance system.

Treasurer Andrew Barr said yesterday the government would not proceed with the Road Transport (Third-Party Insurance) Amendment Bill 2011 after a multi-party committee rejected the laws.

The legislation, which could not pass without ACT Greens' support, would have capped payouts and moved the focus of the compulsory third party insurance scheme away from compensation and towards rehabilitation.

Treasury officials argued the territory had a reputation in the insurance industry for high payouts and that new players would not enter the market to challenge the monopoly of NRMA without radical changes to the scheme.

But the plan, championed by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, incensed Canberra's lawyers, whose fees account for nearly 20 per cent of the average CTP payout, and sparked a determined and well-financed lobbying campaign against the bill.

The Law Society and the Bar Association paid for a multimedia advertising campaign to oppose the laws, with the two groups arguing the proposed changes would have been fundamentally unfair to accident victims and would have taken away their right to compensation for pain and suffering.

Law Society president Noor Blumer welcomed the Assembly decision yesterday.

''We particularly support better long-term care for the catastrophically injured while other injured Canberrans are not disadvantaged,'' she said.

''We are relieved that the committee recommends that the Legislative Assembly should not support the bill in its current form.''

Both Ms Blumer and the society's executive director Larry King declined yesterday to divulge how much money had been spent on the campaign, but Ms Blumer said the media effort had nothing to do with the decision of the Assembly Committee.

Documents published by the society show that $131,221 was spent on the ''Fair Comp Campaign,'' in the 2010-11 financial year, nearly as much as the society spent on renting its Civic headquarters.

Bar Association president Phillip Walker also refused to say how much had been contributed to the campaign by his organisation.

Announcing the dumping of the bill yesterday, Mr Barr blamed the territory's other political parties for the failure of the measure.

''The Liberals have today missed an important opportunity to lower compulsory third party insurance fees for motorists, making a mockery of their claims to be concerned about Canberrans' cost of living.

''It is disappointing that the opposition did not support Labor's important reform.

''They have missed an opportunity to genuinely reduce people's bills - to reduce their cost of living.

''It's also disappointing the Greens have failed to add their support.

''CTP prices are a major issue for Canberrans, and Labor believes it is unfair and unnecessary for Canberra motorists to be paying more for their car insurance than those in Queanbeyan.''

Neither the Canberra Liberals nor the ACT Greens responded to requests for comment yesterday.


  • "''The Liberals have today missed an important opportunity to lower compulsory third party insurance fees for motorists"

    Actually, the Liberals have ensured that injured people do not bear the an increased burden if they are injured though no fault of their own. Rather, all of us pay a little bit more in rego and, in return, if we are injured we are properly compensated.

    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 9:27AM
    • Exactly.

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 4:16PM
  • As usual, the bloodsucking lawyers make most of the money. Common sense says that if the lawyers were against these changes, they must have been good.

    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 9:59AM
    • Rubbish. The changes would ahve significantly shifted what was considered "substantially disabled". For example, if you lost part of your sight, part of your mobility, maybe a digit etc - each of those would not be considered "significant". Currently, the *cumulative* or total effect of each injury sustained are considered. Under the proposed changes, this would have been calculated in a way that disadvantaged people injured in the ACT.
      Let me put it another way: currently the ACT's laws in relation to loss of mobility, sight and other disabilities are virtually identical to NSW. Yet we pay more CPT. The ACT governments idea was to reduce this, so we pay the same CTP as Sydney. It's bad for injured citizens and great for insurance companies. It was a failed policy and I for one am glad the Greens showed a rare glimpse of common sense!

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 4:20PM
    • Common sense says any moves to reduce the pool of funds available (be it as a lump sum or for rehabilitation) for the same type of injury is a bad thing.

      That's why the lawyers opposed it.

      Date and time
      May 17, 2012, 10:51AM
  • The CTPI portion on ACT rego is more than 60% of the yearly cost and is a total joke. Generally NRMA is one of the most expensive insurers around, and hence the high CTPI cost they provide is no surprise. Where is the shopping around? As (most) responsible drivers already have private insurance surely CTPI could be managed by the individual and costs based on their driving record, not Canberra as a whole. What is NSW doing that we are not!?!

    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 10:18AM
    • NSW have laws regarding what constitutes a disability, what constitutes a rehabilitation case v lump sum payout virtually identical in effect to the ACT's.

      There is no reason why the ACT should be higher than NSW. It's an insurance company thing, not an ACT law thing.

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 4:21PM
  • Are these "savings" like the savings that would come to NSW with competition on CTP? My total rego (CTP + rego fee) last yr was $200 more expensive in NSW then the statement I got from Vic about registering the car!

    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 11:54AM
    • Bloody mongrels!

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 1:08PM
      • The price of registering a car is beyond a joke now.

        Date and time
        May 11, 2012, 4:22PM

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