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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7146

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (2:25 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, and it is an insurance related question. What steps has the minister taken to promote the implementation of recommendation 57 of the Ipp report on the law of negligence, which recommends that the rules of court in every jurisdiction contain a provision requiring parties to personal injury claims to attend mediation proceedings with a view to securing a structured settlement?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I do thank Senator Collins for her newfound interest in insurance.

Senator Jacinta Collins —I chaired the inquiry.

Senator COONAN —She did chair a committee that came up with a whole lot of recommendations that had already been implemented through the ministerial meeting on public liability, which had been looking at these matters since before the committee got under way. So, by the time the committee reported, it came up with a whole lot of things that had already been considered in detail at the ministerial meeting on public liability and the ministerial meeting of health ministers, and that were considered and endorsed by COAG meetings throughout this year.

Nevertheless, the answer to Senator Collins's question as to what have I personally done about the implementation of Mr Justice Ipp's recommendations in relation to mediation and personal injury claims is very simple: absolutely nothing because the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over personal injury matters. However, as I understand it, the state governments have endorsed in principle the recommendation of Mr Justice Ipp that, in relation to personal injury matters, a structured settlement or an order in relation to an amount for personal injuries over $2 million not be entered as an order unless there has been compulsory mediation. My understanding is that the states have all committed to that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that, if recommendation 57 is implemented, the use of mediation or alternative dispute resolution techniques would be compulsory in the conduct of every public liability insurance case across Australia? How would the national implementation of this recommendation affect the operations, the cash flow, and the viability of every practitioner and business providing commercial alternative dispute resolution and mediation services in Australia?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Collins for the supplementary question. It would not have any impact at all on the activities of Endispute. Endispute does not conduct any personal injury matters at all.