Senate debates

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading

1:19 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The coalition will be supporting the Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2013, but first I will make a few observations—because this bill has been a very long time coming. It implements recommendations arising out of the former Howard government's 2004 review into the Insurance Contracts Act 1984. The review panel's main conclusion was that the Insurance Contracts Act was generally working satisfactorily to the benefit of insurers and the insured. However, it also found that some changes would be beneficial given the passage of time since the Insurance Contracts Act had originally been enacted and given developments in the insurance market since that time.

The changes foreshadowed by the review were put into an exposure draft by the Howard government in February 2007. More than six years later, in the last days of this government, we finally get to deal with this legislation. It is just another indication that we have been dealing with a part-time Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation in recent times. As well as no doubt being very busy with his significant workload—noting that he is also the minister for unions and union funds—I understand that he has been severely distracted by some other matters. He has apparently been on the phone quite a bit lately, but I do not think that much of that had anything at all to do with the important conclusions of the review into the Insurance Contracts Act. So here we are, more than six years after this legislation was first put forward, finally getting to deal with it in the last few days before we go to an election.

The review conducted by the Howard government into the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 attracted a series of submissions from the industry. The main changes proposed by this bill are covered in seven schedules. These deal with the scope and application of the act, electronic communications, the powers of ASIC, disclosure and misrepresentations, remedies of insurers in the context of life insurance contracts, third parties and subrogation.

The changes in this bill are all sensible and noncontroversial, and it is extraordinary that it has taken this government nearly six years to deal with them—but such are the chaos, the dysfunction and the incompetence of the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments. The coalition will be supporting this bill. Clearly it is a bill that is long overdue. Industry stakeholders have been waiting for this bill to be introduced for some time. They are happy with the provisions that are in this bill and with the level of input they previously had in the process under the previous very sound and very competent Howard coalition government. Industry has been consulted at numerous stages in the development of this bill, beginning all the way back in 2003-04.

I will not hold up the progress of this legislation any further, given that it has already taken us this long to get here. I am sure that Minister Shorten will be glued to the television to make sure that the Insurance Contracts Act changes are going through the Senate in a speedy fashion, given that he has not had much time to deal with these things in recent years. He will be wanting to get back to his various mobile phones so he can deal with the weightier matters that are currently occupying the collective minds of the Labor Party.

1:23 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Cormann for his contribution and I thank the coalition for their support for the bill—a veritable vote of confidence in the minister. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.