Documents released under Freedom of Information (FOI) have raised transparency questions regarding the nature of the relationship between the Chief Minister’s office and major insurer Suncorp during the ACT’s recent CTP reform process.
Maurice Blackburn sought access to correspondence between the Chief Minister’s office and insurers under FOI after the Government failed to satisfactorily confirm that its proposed changes to Canberra’s CTP scheme would not leave injured motorists worse off.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Walter Hawkins said the documents raised critical questions in particular for the Chief Minister’s office about the role of insurers in the citizen’s jury process and the drafting of legislation, including the level of access granted to major insurer Suncorp.
“These documents raise questions about what we have long feared in this process – that the Government had a pre-determined outcome it wanted to achieve with these reforms and that it has kept the options and process narrow and controlled to deliver that outcome,” Mr Hawkins said.
“Our CTP scheme affects all of us and Canberrans should be asking why the door was left open to major insurers during this reform process, while other key stakeholders, including those with lived experience of our CTP scheme, were continually shut out.
“The email correspondence also provides key insights into how the Chief Minister’s office went about navigating the political landscape throughout this process, including with key Greens MLAs, in an attempt to secure the Government’s desired reform outcome,” he said.
Mr Hawkins said the documents raised five key questions for the Chief Minister’s office:
1. Why did the Chief Minister meet with Suncorp during the formative stage of developing legislation following the citizens’ jury process, and why does he want that meeting kept secret?
- Suncorp emails the Chief Minister’s office ahead of a meeting between two people whose names have been redacted [page 120 email binder].
- This is despite the Chief Minister’s and Attorney-General’s publicly available diaries revealing they both met Suncorp representatives on the date referenced in this email.
- The email contains an attachment prepared by Suncorp for the Chief Minister on first party CTP, with a commitment that the insurer will provide more detail later on how such a scheme could operate in the ACT. [page 152 attachments binder]
2. Why did Suncorp have greater access to the Government before and after the citizens’ jury than other stakeholders?
- Suncorp offered opportunity to help the Chief Minister’s Communications team [page 168 email binder]
- Suncorp requests meeting with ALP MLA to discuss citizens’ jury outcome [page 62 email binder].
3. Why were inputs discussed in a cynical way?
- Refusal to discuss an independent assessment of citizens’ jury process until it is finished [page 1 email binder].
- “If the jury recommendations go in an unexpected direction” Chief Minister’s Office indicates there is an ‘expected’ pre-determined outcome from jury [page 136 email binder].
- “If we allow the legislation to get bogged down or pushed off into next year we significantly reduce our chances of actually delivering the reform.” Chief Minister’s office expresses unwillingness to allow scrutiny of CTP legislation [page 193 email binder].
- “Taking from the seriously injured just to make premiums a few bucks cheaper.” The Chief Minister’s office acknowledges motorists will pay similar amount for insurance [page 190].
4. Why was the Office so dismissive of Greens, MLA’s and community stakeholders, such as ACTCoSS?
- “Make sure she’s definitely in the cart and not going to spring any changes on us last minute”. Chief Minister’s office reference to Greens’ MLA Caroline Le Couteur [pg 138 email binder].
- “They don’t have an appetite for a really broad inquiry”. Chief Minister’s office say Greens don’t want scrutiny of reform process or outcome. [page 121 email binder].
- Assessment that the Greens may be “vulnerable” to arguments about the CTP legislation [page 190 email binder].
- Expectation Cabinet will automatically sign off on legislation [page 228 email binder].
- “You have absolutely got to be joking”. The Chief Minister’s office responds to ACTCoSS [page 15 email binder].
5. Why did they not take seriously the views of those with lived experience of CTP?
- “The majority of the report is just describing people’s situations and how lawyers helped get them compensation.” Assessment of the contribution of people who live with life-changing injuries and the current CTP scheme. [page 114 email binder].
The emails also reveal the government has yet to answer questions from some of Canberra’s senior local journalists, including:
- Why was the government asking its consultant to model scenarios for reform before the jury sits when the priorities for reform were meant to come from the jury? [The Canberra Times, page 233 email binder]
- Did the government refer CTP reform to a citizens’ jury because of a few high claims? [The Canberra Times, page 267 email binder]
- Was the jury process corrupted because critical information was only provided in the last hours of deliberation? [The ABC, page 60 email binder]
- Was the jury process “shambolic”? [The Canberra Times, page 64 email binder]
A copy of all documents released as part of the FOI inquiry as well as the Ministerial diary log are available here: