THE NEW South Wales Bar Association will be arguing for tort reform at the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) liability conference as part of a wider campaign leading up to the state election.
Association president Michael Slattery QC has been invited to speak at the March conference, and will use the opportunity to highlight the severity of the laws and the extent to which they are swelling the coffers of insurance companies.
“This really is a once-only opportunity to put before both the politicians and the people of NSW the importance of these issues,” he said. “Because enough time has now gone by for there to be a proper analysis of the profitability of these schemes — both workers’ compensation and motor accidents — based on the new legislation.”
According to Slattery, it is now undeniable that the amended legislation concerning personal injury has gone too far.
“The [schemes] are actually extremely profitable, and the legislation is biting too hard and denying too much money to injured people, and we’re just saying you’ve got to readjust it.”
The Bar Association has in the past put the issue of fair compensation to the Insurance Council of Australia and Australian Business Ltd. Although they acknowledged the argument brought before them, “they don’t agree with what we’re doing, but we’ve engaged with them as well as with the unions, and we’ve been speaking to government and opposition too,” Slattery said.
But the State Government has yet to respond to the campaign, a stance Slattery believes may prove costly in the upcoming election.
“We have not got a response from the Government that has moved in any way at all,” he said. “There has been no acceptance by the Government, as yet, of the important message of our campaign, but I’m confident that the Government will recognise the correctness of what we are saying before the election.”
Bringing fairness to the tort laws will not be as decisive as health or security, but it should be one of a number of important issues as “it has been recognised in polling and by people as a vote determinant,” Slattery said.
The Bar Association plans to launch a “law and justice” policy ahead of the next state election. Tort reform in NSW will also be pursued by the Law Society under the leadership of Geoff Dunlevy.
“The tort law reform campaign [is] a continuing project … particularly over the next few weeks, when we will be doing a relaunch in February,” Dunlevy said. “That will be with a view towards raising the profile of tort law reform as an issue in the lead up to the state election.
“We’ll be doing our best to introduce a system of uniform laws across all the areas of personal injury, and doing our best to expand the access that injured people have to justice and compensation,” Dunlevy said.