House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021


Corporations Amendment (Improving Outcomes for Litigation Funding Participants) Bill 2021; Second Reading

12:11 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I am, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am setting out the potential examples of class actions, as many other members have done during this debate. I think it's important that, as the government, we understand what the potential for these class actions is and how this bill will actually shut the route for Australians seeking justice and seeking compensation. I believe the TGA have set this government up for many claims of class actions because they are using a system of reporting that is unfit for purpose and that is missing many of the adverse reactions.

The question is: how many class actions will be knocked out because of this potential legislation? Published in the Australian a few days ago was a report that stated:

PwC found that more than 90 per cent of cases—

that's class action cases—

may not have gone ahead because the funders and lawyers would have been left with either a loss or without an adequate return to justify the risks of taking on a long, complex case with uncertain outcomes against a well-resourced defendant.

The article goes on:

The government's proposals would have denied justice to hundreds of thousands of Australians who have turned to class actions to help rebuild their lives.

I don't know whether it is correct that 90 per cent of class actions wouldn't have gone ahead. But I do know that this legislation would change that risk-reward balance and result in fewer class actions going ahead and result in fewer Australians having access to justice.

Of course, with respect to potential cases, we only have to look at the one example where there is a potential class action that Australians may wish to sign up to—the TGA's approval of the Moderna vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds. Even though that is made in the USA, it does not have approval in the USA for 12- to 17-year-olds. It does not have approval in Germany for 12- to 17-year-olds. It does not have approval in France for 12- to 17-year-olds, nor Sweden, nor Denmark, nor Finland, nor Norway. But yet, here in Australia, our TGA has decided that the Moderna vaccine can be injected into 12-year-old Australian children. Now, one only has to look at the recent data, again from AusVaxSafety, to say what a potential great risk this is of future class actions. The AusVaxSafety data makes a comparison of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines relating to the impact on routine activities of children aged 12 to 15. After the second dose of Pfizer, there are reports of 22 per cent of children missing work, study or routine activities. But, when it comes to Moderna, after the second dose, 39 per cent of Australians aged 12 to 15 years are reporting missing work, study or their routine duties. How can we allow this here in Australia?

We have this data. This data is publicly available. The TGA continue to close their eyes to it. They continue to ignore the fact that countries like Germany and France have suspended the Moderna vaccines in 12- to 17-year-olds while we continue it in Australian children. The adverse reactions continue to mount; the potential legal cases continue to mount; and the potential for class actions continues to mount.

I cannot vote in favour of any legislation that further restricts Australians' access to the courts and further restricts Australians'—especially those small businesses—access to justice. That is exactly what this legislation, sadly, does. To me, it is contrary to all the principles that I believed in when I signed up to the Liberal Party: equal rights, a fair go and equal opportunity for small business; protection of individual citizens; and allowing the free market to work rather than using price caps. We would do far better to have more firms in the area of class action litigation funding rather than fewer. That is the way we bring the cost down, not through artificial Soviet-style price caps. That is not the way the Liberal Party goes about things. But that is the mentality and ideology that they bring with this legislation. Therefore I thank the House, but I will be voting against this legislation.


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