Call for inquiry into impact of no-fault insurance schemes
16th Jun 2012
The Australian Lawyers Alliance is calling for a Parliamentary Inquiry into no-fault schemes and the impact of such schemes on the lives of injury victims, following the presentations of keynote speakers and panel experts at its SA Conference in Glenelg yesterday.
Barrister David Hirsch’s keynote presentation on no-fault schemes discussed concerns about the way such schemes were being framed and the deliberate adoption of selective emotive language to distort the truth.
It was a rallying call that used examples such as the United States financial collapse of prime mortgage lenders, the 9/11 attack, and even medical insurers deliberately losing a high profile case to distort reality and reduce the number of people who can claim for compensation.
His presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the National Injury Insurance Scheme, which included presentations from himself and compensation experts Rod Hodgson, Pat Boylen and ALA NSW president, Jnana Gumbert.
The resulting consensus was a need for an Inquiry as no-fault schemes such as WorkCover were failing and close examination was needed before the government embarked on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and National Injury Insurance scheme ahead of the recommended schedule.
ALA SA president, Tony Kerin, said people with severe disabilities, whether caused by negligence of others or not, should be provided with sufficient support and access to services such as to be able to live their lives with dignity.
“The truth is that historically governments in Australia have underfunded disability support services and there is no doubt this must be corrected,” Mr Kerin said.
“But the funding of appropriate disability support services does not have to come at the expense of removing the right to be compensated when physically wronged by another; and taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for injuries caused by such carelessness, particularly when insurers are raking in profits of up to 25%,” he said.
“We can level up and improve the safety-net by carefully modelling affordability and sustainability, without slashing the rights of those whose lives have been damaged through no fault of their own.
"A pure no-fault scheme to cover all injuries, as in New Zealand, doesn’t work and there is a limit to how much the taxpayer should be made to fund in the interest of sustainability if nothing else. Its effective bankruptcy and miserly benefits compared to other Australian schemes furthers this argument,” he said.
Mr Kerin said the first piece of funding to pilot the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme, at a cost of $1billion was expected to deliver only $350 million across four years for up to 50,000 people. The rest would go to administrative costs as such schemes always spawned huge and costly bureaucracies.
The ALA believes that the acceleration of the Productivity Commission’s original time frame by a year for the NDIS showed dangerous haste in a policy area requiring much more analysis of eligibility criteria, cost, affordability, workforce planning, Commonwealth-State funding interaction, the delivery of disability services, and dispute resolution – on this basis, a Parliamentary Inquiry was imperative.