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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6243

Ms HALL (8:16 PM) —I would firstly like to congratulate the member for Oxley on his fine contribution to this debate on the Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2010 and the fine work that he has done on his Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. The report that he brought down in that area on fees and commissions was an outstanding report and members on both side of this parliament would have had very positive feedback about that report. Without a doubt it is one of the key reports that have been brought down by any committee within this parliament. I commend the member for Oxley on the fine work he has done in that area. His knowledge was very apparent in his contribution to this debate tonight. He made some very good points about people being underinsured, and the impact that that has. He referred to the bushfires in Victoria, which were a prime example of the effect that being underinsured has on people. Within my own area in the Hunter, the earthquake in 1988 was another example of people being underinsured; it really impacted on the people of that region. The issues that he raised about making sure insurance is affordable and accessible are very relevant. I do not think there would be a member of this parliament who does not believe we should do everything in our power to encourage our constituents to take out insurance, and in taking out insurance make sure the insurance they get covers them.

The bill before us gives effect to a number of recommendations of a review panel appointed to review the Insurance Contracts Act 1984. The changes are largely technical in nature and respond to market developments and judicial decisions since its enactment. The bill will streamline requirements and address anomalies in the regulatory framework for the benefit of insurers and consumers. The measures have been subject to stakeholder consultation and in some areas the review panel recommendations have been modified to take account of issues that have been raised in these consultations. At this point I should state that the initial consultation on and development of the legislation were undertaken by the previous government. This is one of the areas where I think they looked at an issue in good spirit and good faith. As a result, we have the Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill before us tonight, which arose out of recommendations from the review I have mentioned of the Insurance Contracts Act. That was an act of 1984—26 years ago—so the review was long overdue. It shows that we must keep our legislation updated. We need to revisit legislation and amend it to make it relevant to today. This act needs to be made consistent with the laws and applications of the 21st century. That is exactly what this legislation before us tonight does.

The review was conducted by a panel that comprised Alan Cameron AM, a very respected man, and Ms Nancy Milne. The final report was publicly released in 2005, so in the years from 2005 to 2010 we have had consultation taking place. The review panel’s main conclusion was that the act was generally working satisfactorily to the benefit of the insurers and the insured. However, the panel found that some changes would be beneficial given the passage of time. I have highlighted that that passage of time is 26 years since the act was enacted. The insurance market since then has changed somewhat, and judicial interpretations of the act have shown there was a need to review it.

One of the most important aspects of the legislation is that amendments can be made online. That will definitely benefit people who have insurance. I note there has been wide consultation on this legislation and that there has been generally widespread acceptance of it. I think all the schedules and the recommendations for the legislation will tend to benefit most people covered by it. I note there has been a bit of concern expressed by some groups about the interests of the insured. They raised the issue of proper public consultation in the process. I would have to say that when you have had five years of consultation there probably has been proper consultation. I know this is one piece of legislation that has been widely circulated and debated. I think it is fairly noncontroversial in nature. I will conclude on that point and endorse the legislation before the House.