Motor Accident Injuries Bill 2017
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE ( 20:00 :53 ): I am pleased to speak in debate on the Motor Accident Injuries Bill 2017 and indicate my support for this legislation. In the dining room I have just announced to all the members there that I call this bill a success story for the Government and for all members of Parliament. The bill introduces a new compulsory third party insurance scheme for people who are injured in motor vehicle accidents in New South Wales. The bill follows a review of the CTP scheme undertaken in 2016 involving extensive community and stakeholder consultation. The review found that the CTP scheme required major structural reform to achieve the Government’s stated objectives. These objectives were: increasing the proportion of funds returned to injured road users; reducing the time it takes to resolve a claim; reducing claims fraud and exaggerated claims; and the objective that is most important from the point of view of the Christian Democratic Party, reducing the cost of green slip premiums. The fourth objective was a priority in our discussions with the Government.
The bill has received in-principle support from the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association, the Australian Lawyers Alliance, the NSW Council of Social Service and especially the NSW Taxi Council and the Insurance Council of Australia. I have in front of me correspondence regarding this legislation sent to the Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Victor Dominello, by the Christian Democratic Party congratulating the Minister for the way in which he handled the negotiations and discussions with party members concerning this legislation. These negotiations took place over more than 12 months—probably for two years—and we thank the Minister for the time he and his advisers gave to brief us on the progress of developing this legislation. This legislation has not been rushed to the Parliament, and a lot of thought and planning went into its development.
I have concerns about the success of this legislation and particularly about the situation with the NSW Taxi Council following presentations to me concerning the situation of taxidrivers and those with taxi plates in New South Wales. I was told that green slip insurance premiums for taxis in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle now exceed $9,000 per vehicle and in some cases prices have been quoted at more than $10,000.
Obviously, that could not continue; it was killing the taxi industry in New South Wales. I am pleased that we have had lengthy discussions with the NSW Taxi Council, particularly with the chief executive officer, Mr Roy Wakelin-King, who has discussed this situation with us over many, many months. A significant issue for the taxi industry is the impact that Uber has had on the taxi industry.
The vehicles of Uber providers have been treated as private vehicles and those providers have been paying the same for green slip insurance as other drivers pay in New South Wales—$500 or $600—whereas a taxi driver or those who have a taxi plate have to pay $9,000 per vehicle or even more than $10,000. That situation could not be allowed to continue. I know the Minister shared that concern and that it was one of the driving forces behind his trying to develop a new, fairer system of compulsory third party insurance in New South Wales. The Minister wanted to lower the cost of third party insurance for the taxi industry but, on the other hand, to increase in a reasonable way the cost to Uber drivers. That is the potential good that will come out of this legislation. In a letter to the Minister, the Hon. Victor Dominello, Mr Roy Wakelin-King from the NSW Taxi Council states:
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my greatest appreciation to you for the proactive manner you have taken in relation to this matter and the engagement you have afforded us throughout the reform process. Your recognition of the need for a fair and balanced approach to CTPI reform for the point to point transport sector has been well received and our industry is committed to working with SIRA and the Government to help ensure that these outcomes are achieved.
We have received copies of similar very favourable correspondence, one being a jointly written letter to the Minister from the Law Society of New South Wales, the NSW Bar Association and the Australian Lawyers Alliance. It is almost miraculous to have those three legal bodies come together in unity in one letter with the signatures of Pauline Wright, the President of the Law Society of New South Wales; Noel Hutley, President of the NSW Bar Association; and Roshana May, the NSW Branch President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance. I cannot remember ever seeing a letter jointly signed by those three individuals who head up those legal organisations. A section of their letter states:
The profession believes that the 2017 model is a significant improvement on previous proposals. The new scheme will retain acceptable levels of support for the more seriously injured, whilst delivering the premium reductions for motorists that the government seeks.
The profession will monitor the implementation of the new scheme to ensure that it delivers on its objectives.
The profession appreciates the open, constructive and collaborative approach that Minister Dominello has taken through the reform process.
I believe it is the Minister’s personal handling of this whole issue, with his ability to cooperate, consult and, over a period of time, gradually develop the legislation, that has brought about this successful result..
It is one thing to get the legal bodies on side, but to get the Insurance Council of Australia on side is a great achievement. They have sent a similar letter. I quote the final paragraph:
The Insurance Council thanks the Government for the significant level of consultation that has occurred to date and for the clarification of matters outlined in SIRA’s letter of 4 March 2017. We look forward to continuing to provide assistance to the Government and the SIRA as regulations and guidelines are developed.
Signed by: Robert Whelan, the Executive Director and CEO of the Insurance Council Australia.
To get all those bodies working in harmony is a great achievement for Minister Dominello and he deserves credit for his success in bringing forward a bill that, even though there are some amendments—the Christian Democratic Party [CDP] has some, mostly machinery amendments that improve the legislation and that are on the same wavelength as the legislation—I believe we will come to a very satisfactory conclusion with the passage of this legislation through the House tonight. The Christian Democratic Party fully and enthusiastically supports the Motor Accidents Injuries Bill 2017