Greens demand huge changes on CTP to pass bill

The ACT Greens have split from their parliamentary partners on compulsory third party insurance, refusing to back Labor's CTP bill unless big changes are made to the draft legislation.

Greens minister Shane Rattenbury and crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur informed their coalition colleagues on Wednesday they would not support the bill, which will come back up for debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly next month, as they feared injured people would be left "worse off" under the new scheme.

ACT  Greens members Caroline Le Couteur and Shane Rattenbury with Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr and ACT Labor deputy Yvette Berry in happier times. The Greens have broken rank to raise concerns about the CTP being pushed by Labor.  Photo: Jay Cronan

ACT Greens members Caroline Le Couteur and Shane Rattenbury with Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr and ACT Labor deputy Yvette Berry in happier times. The Greens have broken rank to raise concerns about the CTP being pushed by Labor. Photo: Jay Cronan

"We support the goals of the proposed new CTP system that were identified by the citizen's jury but this really is a case of the devil being in the detail. Key details need to be revised to ensure this system delivers on those goals," Ms Le Couteur said.

"We are concerned about the potential for injured people to be left worse off and to face too many barriers when navigating the new system."

Specifically, they want changes to curtail the influence of insurance companies over the claims process and to prevent "insurer super profits".

The Greens also want to allow victims to seek external review through ACAT if their internal appeal is rejected.

According to the draft legislation, injured parties can only apply for an external review after their claim has been internally reviewed by the insurance company. The government is yet to nominate an avenue for that review although the Magistrate's Court has been put up as an option.

The Greens also say there should enforceable obligations on insurers to provide information and support to claimants.

While the new Motor Accident Injuries Commission will set out guidelines about information insurers must provide to claimants, there does not appear to be a penalty for failing to do so.

The Greens also believe support and advocacy services should be provided by community legal centres and groups like the Health Care Consumers Association.

"Having good support and advocacy processes and bodies has a significant impact on achieving good outcomes for individuals," Ms Le Couteur said.

The Greens also want to extend the number of years that people can access defined benefits regardless of fault, and give victims more time to lodge claims. Under the draft legislation, victims only have 13 weeks to apply for defined benefits and the insurer has discretion to reject any claims filed outside that period.

They also want crash victims to have "greater flexibility" in access to common law claims "to prevent harsh outcomes from the whole of person impairment test".

They called for a narrative test, like in Victoria, to capture cases where an injury may not meet the 10 per cent whole of person impairment threshold but would have a devastating impact on someone's vocation (like a hairdresser who could no longer use their hands).

The Greens also want more flexibility for making claims for injured children, as the extent of the damage may not be immediately apparent after an accident, and for older people who are still in the workforce.

Insurance group IAG previously voiced concerns about the bill's treatment of children and the decision to cut income benefits for injured people who were at retirement age plus 26 weeks, or for people who were on unpaid maternity leave at the time of their accident.

Workers injured in a crash should also have more time to choose between the new CTP scheme and the existing workers compensation scheme, the Greens say. Unions and personal injury lawyers have expressed concern about the interaction of the different insurance schemes.

The Greens are also concerned about plans to prevent people found guilty of unrelated offences, like not wearing a bike helmet from receiving a full payout. Pedal Power ACT has previously described those changes as "mean and penny pinching".

The new CTP scheme is designed so anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident can access treatment, care and income support for up to five years, regardless of fault, with the most seriously injured and the not-at-fault able to get extra benefits.

A citizen's jury on the topic determined that early and equitable treatment were the most important elements for a new insurance scheme. Currently claimants can only pursue compensation payouts through the courts if they are not at fault which can take years, although most people can also get up to $5000 for early medical expenses.

However the new scheme also expands the pool of eligible claimants by two-thirds while cutting overall compensation by 20 per cent. This is because the ACT government set a condition that premiums could not rise under any new scheme. The ACT has historically has some of the highest CTP premiums in the country.