Second Reading of the Water Industry (Compensation for Loss or Damage) Amendment Bill
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 22 June 2016.)
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 16:55 ): I rise to make some remarks in relation to this private member's bill which has been promulgated by the Hon. Mr Robert Brokenshire. I understand this bill was prompted by the appalling spectacle of water leaks that we have had in this state this year. My colleague the member for Unley, Mr David Pisoni, has attended many of the water leaks to meet with local residents and to talk to the media about our plans for what we would do if we were in government in relation to this issue and the complete absence of the Minister for Water. This has led to The Advertiser coming up with a corflute which appears regularly on its pages as an indication of the minister's absence—not only his absence physically but his absence in this policy space whatsoever.
I think it was the situation at Paradise which was the most appalling. I understand the minister's office was in touch with members of the media and there was some discussion about whether he would attend. One may only guess as to whether he made the decision to attend or not based on what they said, but he certainly does not have oodles of compassion for people whose houses have been flooded by an error of his agency by offering them some sort of comfort, as one might hope for. At least he could say, 'I am really sorry about this. We will do everything that we can to rectify the situation.' We were reminded of Clovelly Park earlier today by the Hon. Mr Lucas. Indeed, I think we saw a similar situation there with this particular minister. It is strange that he seems to be a Labor man, but he does not really care too much about people.
However, that distracts from the matter at hand, which is a piece of legislation that has been drafted to address the situation where people who are affected by burst water mains are seeking some sort of compensation. I think it is a reflection on the current government that a number of people are having difficulty. From what I understand from a radio transcript I read maybe four weeks ago or certainly last month, some of the people of Paradise were still not able to live in their homes and had not received an adequate response from the government.
I think this particular piece of legislation is well intentioned, but we are not convinced that it is going to rectify the situation, and let me explain why. Parliaments need to be very, very careful about unintended consequences of legislation that are drafted with good intent. Our concerns are that this legislation, if it comes to pass, may discourage the taking out of insurance by individuals, which I think is always undesirable.
People do need to try to cover themselves with home and contents insurance. I think that is a fairly basic matter and, if some individuals are discouraged from taking out insurance, that just places the burden on everybody else. Certainly, we on this side of the chamber believe that people should try to be self-sufficient and people should not be discouraged from taking responsibility for their own property by not taking out insurance.
I think it also has great potential to create legal ambiguity regarding liability for damage. It shifts, and I think it would create a precedent in South Australia where we would have a situation where there was a new entity or new piece of legislation that would provide some sort of recompense which is different from other states, and I think that is also not desirable. It also may encourage insurers to drop the coverage of damage from leaks and bursts from their policies in South Australia, and I think it is also quite undesirable for that situation to occur.
As we know, many consumers do not read the fine print in their insurance policies. Lots of policies run to many pages and can be in small print these days. If that were to be the situation, then I think we may well find ourselves in quite an invidious position in South Australia and at a disadvantage to other states.
We sought feedback from a range of industry bodies, and I think I am accurate in saying that I do not think they had been contacted by the mover of this bill, which I think is naughty, if I can put it that way. We always try to seek to do due diligence, so the Water Industry Alliance, the Master Plumbers Association of South Australia and the Insurance Council of Australia were those we thought, at the very least, were the relevant stakeholders who may have a view.
The advice that we received was informal, so I will not name which association it came from, but their concern was that this may well have an unintended consequence on consumers. I would urge the mover of this bill that in future he try to ensure that he formally contacts the relevant stakeholders and provide the feedback to this chamber that those organisations provide to him because I think it is a fairly basic thing to have to do.
I am quite happy to do it. I think it is just a question of due diligence and everyone ought to do it. In fact, it is one of the things we often find the government has not done. With all their resources that nobody else in the parliament has, they often do not consult adequately. I think it is a very important part of the process to make sure that we are not causing unintended consequences and, therefore, further hardship to the people of South Australia. With those comments, as I have indicated, we will not be supporting this bill.
Second reading negatived.