QUESTION: Compulsory Third Party Insurance

During Question Time, Mark asked the Treasurer whether environmental considerations are taken into account in choosing the private insurance companies allowed to contest the compulsory third party insurance market in South Australia. 


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: A constituent recently shared with me some questions she posed to the Ombudsman and the CTP Regulator about the choices now available for CTP insurance. My constituent wrote:

In the process of re-registering my car and choosing from the third party insurance companies offered, I have researched the four companies and find that there is very little difference in their policies regarding investment in or underwriting of companies involved in fossil fuel development.

She then refers to market research undertaken by the respected financial analysis organisation, Market Forces, which identified that all of the options available in South Australia were heavily exposed to the fossil fuel industry. My constituent states that investment in and exposure to the fossil fuel industry is her main criteria in choosing financial products. She was not happy with the choices on offer and felt that the Government had abandoned its responsibilities in relation to climate change.

The reply that she received from the CTP Insurance Regulator indicates that (a) they didn't really understand the question and (b) that price and service are the only real considerations for customers.

My questions of the Treasurer are:

1. To what extent, if any, are environmental considerations in general, and climate change in particular, taken into account in choosing the private insurance companies allowed to contest the compulsory third party insurance market in South Australia?

2. Will the Government consider making available socially and environmentally responsible options for compulsory car insurance in the same way that it provides those options for state public servants in the compulsory state superannuation scheme?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I would advise the Hon. Mr Parnell to direct his questions to the now Labor opposition because these decisions were all taken by the former Labor Government when they—I am not sure which word they want to use—privatised or outsourced the Motor Accident Commission. I will invite the Leader of the Opposition to say whether he wants to describe whatever it is they did do to the Motor Accident Commission as privatisation or outsourcing.

All those decisions were taken by the former Labor government. So the frank answer to the Hon. Mr Parnell's question is: could he direct that question to the Hon. Mr Maher, the Hon. Mr Koutsantonis, the Hon. Mr Malinauskas, or the Hon. Mr Mullighan, the member for Lee, because they were members of the former Government?

The Hon. E.S. Bourke interjecting:

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: You are following the very bad example of the Leader of the Opposition. I can only suggest to the Hon. Ms Bourke that she not follow the leadership of her leader. There are much better role models in this chamber than the Leader of the Opposition.

If I could answer the Hon. Mr Parnell's question: the decisions in relation to who won the particular contracts were all part of the deal the former Government did, and these companies, however they chose them, paid significant sums of money to win the contract. It is not a decision, if you could advise your constituent—and I am happy to correspond with him or her—for the current Government (we don't have the option).

The former Government took the money from these particular companies, they won the contract and they were the lucky winners, if I can put it that way, of the former Government's either privatisation or outsourcing of the Motor Accident Commission. The current Government does not have the option of choosing different private sector insurance. It is possible—and this is a decision I think ultimately for the regulator, and the Government I think has a role—for other competitors at varying stages to choose to join. But this is not a decision that the Government goes out and says to the ABC company, or the XYG company, or whatever it might be, 'We want you to come in.'

There is a process—a complicated process, as I understand it—outlined in the contractual agreements, where, if someone wants to compete, they have to go through a process and the regulator and others, perhaps, need to do a comprehensive analysis of whether or not that person should be a participant in the market. And there are some restrictions; I have to check the details for the Hon. Mr Parnell. The reality is, for the member's constituent, it is not a decision for the current Government. The question should be directed to the former Government as to why they didn't take into account those particular factors.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Supplementary: I thank the minister for his answer. Just to be clear, going forward, so rather than the previous arrangements, is there any barrier to the Government doing exactly what it did in the superannuation scheme, which is basically saying, 'We will provide an ethical option'? In other words, you could have a subgroup of insurers and invite companies to tender for that particular component of the market. That's effectively what happened with the compulsory state insurance. They said, 'There will be an ethical option,' and they went and found one. Could you not do the same thing for compulsory third party insurance?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I think the problem with the analogy the member is seeking to draw is that, in relation to superannuation investment, that was a decision of the Government. The Government controlled the superannuation scheme. This is now a private sector—either privatised or outsourced—model where you have four private sector operators competing in a market. The superannuation analogy the member is trying to compare it with is one where the government is the monopoly provider of superannuation through the government scheme.

We were not in a position to go out to the private sector insurers, for example, and say, 'You must do this in terms of ethical options.' In relation to the funds management of the government superannuation scheme, the Government had control of those issues, but that's not comparable to the situation that we have. We have a private sector or an outsourced model scheme in relation to CTP insurance. Four companies have paid large lumps of money to be the lucky winners of that particular privatisation or outsourcing and they now have certain rights and entitlements tied up in quite complicated legal agreements and contracts that they have signed with the Government.

I would imagine there are significant restrictions in relation to the Government either inserting itself back into the market, if it wanted to, or trying to bring in someone with different rules and guidelines. As I said, I do know there is the option for new competitors, if they want to, to go through a regulatory process to see whether or not they can compete. We are not in a position to redraw legally binding contracts that people have paid money for on a certain understanding that they are entitled to compete in the CTP market subject to the regulation of the independent regulator.