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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 18067

Mr Gibbons asked the Minister representing the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, upon notice, on 19 June 2002:

(1) What steps are being taken to ensure that private midwives have access to affordable insurance indemnity cover, thereby allowing them to continue practising their profession.

(2) When will the Government introduce measures to alleviate problems that large sections of the community are experiencing with exorbitant indemnity insurance.

Mr Costello (Treasurer) —The Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) and (2) The Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan, has convened five meetings with her State and Territory colleagues to address the availability and affordability of insurance. The agreements reached at these meetings could be expected to have implications for those professionals seeking professional indemnity insurance, including midwives.

Ministers have considered the recommendations of the Review of the Law of Negligence. This report makes recommendations on professional negligence, the principles of negligence and the quantum of damages to be awarded arising from personal injury. Ministers have agreed to move to a nationally consistent law of negligence and a package of reforms implementing key recommendations of the Review.

The Commonwealth is taking a leadership role in the reform of tort law. However, reform in this area is the primary responsibility of the States and Territories.

Ministers have also agreed to consider the development of a nationally consistent model for proportionate liability for economic loss and the implications and mechanisms for developing a nationally consistent approach to professional standards legislation as a means of addressing problems surrounding professional indemnity insurance.

In addition, the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC) Medical Indemnity Working Party has made recommendations that could be expected to impact on professional indemnity premiums for midwives. The States and Territories are also considering whether to implement these recommendations.