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Monday, 21 June 2004
Page: 30958

Mr ROSS CAMERON (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (6:15 PM) —I move:

That the amendments be disagreed to.

The Trade Practices Amendment (Personal Injuries and Death) Bill (No. 2) 2004 is part of a national framework to support the state and territory reforms to the law of negligence. The approach being taken was developed as a result of extensive consultation and hard work by the Australian, state and territory governments. The reforms are supported by all jurisdictions and have been applauded by industry and stakeholders both here and overseas. In fact, reforms undertaken to implement this framework have already begun to make liability insurance more affordable and available to community groups and businesses throughout Australia.

The government has worked with state and territory ministers, industry representatives and other key stakeholders to develop a national resolution. The bill before the parliament today is a key component in implementing this resolution. The bill draws on the findings of an expert panel established at the May 2002 ministerial meeting on public liability insurance and chaired by the Hon. Justice David Ipp. The panel was established to assist governments to formulate a consistent and principled approach to reforming liability laws. The Senate moved a number of amendments to the legislation which are inconsistent with the panel's findings and which the government does not accept.

Amendment (1) incorporates the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions into the 2004 bill. This amendment proposes to extend the application of measures contained in this bill to conduct in contravention of part V, division 1, of the Trade Practices Act 1974. This would have the effect of allowing actions for personal injuries and death in contravention of part V, division 1, of the act, subject to the proposed thresholds, caps and limitations regime contained in this bill. This amendment is contrary to the recommendations of the review of the law of negligence, which reflected concerns for the no-fault dimension of part V, division 1, that this part of the act was not originally intended to apply to claims for personal injuries and death. The scope for framing claims for personal injuries or death would remain in the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions if this amendment were accepted, allowing the potential for actions under this part of the act to undermine state and territory civil liability reforms.

Amendments (2) to (6) relate to special arrangements for claims for personal injuries caused by tobacco use made under the Trade Practices Act 1974. These amendments are not supported for a number reasons. The Australian government is already pursuing a broad range of policies in relation to tobacco control appropriate to its jurisdiction. The approach suggested by the Senate lacks any basis in principle which would justify exempting tobacco related injuries from national benchmarks on damages and limitation of actions but not other injuries. There is no principal reason why special arrangements should apply for injuries caused by the use of tobacco products. Additionally, while recent civil liability law reforms in a number of states and territories have been framed so as to not apply to tobacco claims, there has been no clear consensus between states and territories as to this approach. Accordingly, the House of the Representatives should not accept these amendments.