The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Helen Coonan

Helen Coonan

Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer

26 November 2001 - 17 July 2004

Media Release of 11/02/2004

C004/04

11 February 2004

LABOR OUT OF STEP - BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS PAY THE PRICE

Labor, Democrat and Green Senators today combined to shoot down necessary law reform designed to bring the system back into balance and make insurance more affordable and available, Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Senator Helen Coonan, said today.

Senator Coonan said Labor’s ill-informed stance on amendments to the Trade Practices Act 1974 left reforms undertaken by Labor State and Territory Governments vulnerable to being undermined and devalued.

“This is a slap in the face for every pony club, tourist attraction, community event and small business struggling with higher insurance premiums and finding cover harder and harder to find,” Senator Coonan said.

“It’s hard to understand why Labor is fighting to keep open a loophole which allows people who are trying to avoid state law reforms to use parts of the Trade Practices Act which were never intended for the recovery of damages for personal injury.

“It’s not what the expert Ipp Review recommended, it’s not what the Labor States prefer and it’s not what the community needs, so who are Labor Senators representing? They are out of step with everyone.

“When all Governments have worked tirelessly to ease the pressure on insurance premiums it is shameful the Federal ALP should try to undermine the reform program.

“Their Labor colleagues in the States and Territories have been willing to stand up to the powerful plaintiff lawyers lobby, Federal Labor obviously don’t have the same intestinal fortitude.

“While Labor and Democrat Senators defend the right of plaintiffs to use the Trade Practices Act in a way in which it was never intended, community, sporting groups and small businesses around Australia will pay the very real price for the Senate’s actions.”

Governments across Australia have been working diligently for the past two years to resolve problems in public liability, professional indemnity and medical indemnity insurance.

“All Federal Labor has done is actively and deliberately attempted to derail that process,” Senator Coonan said.

“Under the Opposition's approach, a range of professionals, including doctors, will continue to be under threat of claims for personal injury, regardless of whether they were at fault or not. This fails to resolve uncertainty in the insurance market generally and for doctors in particular.

“In short, they will lead to a field day for lawyers and the spectre of legal action hanging over the heads of professionals - including doctors. This at a time when the Federal Opposition is trying to convince the Australian public that it will ensure doctors will stay in practice so Australians can access essential medical services!

“This Government has pursued concrete, long-term solutions that have a genuine and lasting impact on the insurance landscape and ones that balance the legitimate rights of plaintiffs who are injured through no fault of their own, with the need to accept some personal responsibility.

“Labor is only interested in political grandstanding and buck-passing. I'm yet to hear of any sensible and sustainable solution to ensuring the safety and stability of the medical indemnity industry from Labor or any other suggestions to improve the availability of insurance being offered in Australia.

“Mr Latham should have a word with his Labor Senators and listen to his Labor State and Territory colleagues and give his unconditional support to the Government's proposed reforms. He must abandon Opposition for Opposition's sake.

“Next time there is a public outcry about the cost of insurance or a community event gets cancelled it will be on Labor’s head.”