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Wednesday, 7 February 2001
Page: 24144

Ms CORCORAN (7:30 PM) —I want to put on record the achievements of a group of people in my electorate. I am talking about the people at the Cranbourne Community House. Late last year I was invited to present certificates of achievement to the students there who had undertaken adult education courses. The certificates were for general education for adults, initial adult literacy and numeracy, and English as a second language. These students were an extraordinary group of people, ranging in age from teenagers to those in their 70s. Many in the group came from different countries and were there to tackle English as a second language. Others in the group were there to learn literacy skills as adults. It takes a lot of guts and determination to take on study when you are an adult, particularly if your experience of study as a child was not very good. These people had seen gaps in their education and knowledge. They had the guts to acknowledge those gaps and then the guts to go ahead and do something about it.

One woman stood up at the end of the ceremony and told us how she could now go home and read to her kids at night—something the rest of us probably take for granted. She was clearly moved by the doors that are open to her now with her new skills. These students can take a much fuller part in life and have many more opportunities open to them. I encourage anybody who is thinking about taking on further education, at whatever level, to take a leaf out of these people's books—stop thinking about it and just get on and do it. I also pay tribute to the staff at Cranbourne Community House. It is a thriving place, full of energy, fun and caring. The staff are dedicated people who work well beyond their job descriptions, and their efforts are appreciated by those attending the centre. The success of the group and the pride they took in their achievements are a testament to the staff.

In the remaining few minutes I want to raise again the issue of what I consider to be an unfair practice in the motor vehicle insurance industry. On 2 November last year I raised the fact that one of my constituents was involved in an accident which wrote off her car just one month after she had paid her full year's comprehensive insurance. All those concerned agreed that the accident was not her fault, and the other driver's insurance company paid up. This woman's own insurance company, however, insisted that she pay another full year's insurance when, one month later, she had a replacement car. I understand this practice to be commonplace. I wrote to the insurance company concerned and also to the Insurance Council of Australia. The advice from the Insurance Council of Australia is as follows:

... while insurance contracts are generally for 12 months, once a total loss occurs and the insurance company pays out the full sum insured, the contract terms are satisfied and the contract is at an end.

Mr Speaker, let me remind you that the company had nothing to pay out in this case. The Insurance Council of Australia's response continues:

If refunds were made in these circumstances, it would reduce the amount of money in the pool from which to pay claims and ultimately lead to higher premiums to cover that shortfall.

If we accept that statement, we are accepting that insurance is a lottery. Some of us have to pay more, maybe even twice, to keep the premiums down for everyone else. It seems to me that there is room for improvement here. I would like to hear an insurance company tell me how much it will cost me to buy an insurance policy that will not disappear if a total loss occurs. Then I would like to hear them tell me how much it will cost for me to buy insurance that does disappear if an accident happens which is not my fault.

The present system is particularly unfair for individuals who are on limited incomes. These people typically budget very well but very tightly. They have limited resources with which to cope with a sudden and unexpected bill, especially one of this size. They buy insurance expecting to smooth out the financial bumps of life, but in this case that is not what happened. I call on the insurance industry to recognise that they are part of our community—they do very nicely out of our community—and ask that they adopt a good citizen approach in their relationships with us. They need to ensure that their actions are not just legal but also fair.