Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

United Medical Protection; ABC



Launch of HMAS Ballarat

Saturday, 25 May 2002
1.45 am


SUBJECTS: United Medical Protection; ABC


Mr Costello any reaction to the Supreme Court ruling yesterday regarding United Medical Protection? Was it a good ruling?


Well, the Government welcomes the ruling. What it does is it underwrites the Government guarantee in respect of claims during the period when the Government has offered to stand behind doctors, and it gives doctors the confidence to go out and to continue operating and working in their normal practices in the normal way. So, we welcome the ruling, and it's an indication of the measures that have been put in place and doctors should have every confidence to continue on with their practice.


Kerryn Phelps has cautiously welcomed the ruling but is still calling on the Prime Minister to intervene. What's your reaction to that?


Well, you've got to understand that the Government has now given a guarantee while further discussions transpire about a long term solution. And the long term solution is going to be involving all of the parties, probably limitation on future verdicts, it will require doctors paying premiums, and it will involve the taxpayer contribution which has already been given in respect of current payments. But at the end of the day what we need to do to ensure that we have a sustainable medical indemnity insurance position, we need to get a grip on the escalating costs. And it's going to be very important for the states to legislate in this area so that premiums don't blow-out as a consequence of verdicts blowing-out. And the Government stands ready to co-operate with the states to get that fundamental change.


So the onus is more on the states than the Federal Government?


No, the Federal Government has already stepped in. The Federal Government has stepped in with a guarantee between now and the 30th of June. That was endorsed by the New South Wales Supreme Court. Between now and then we want to work on a long term sustainable solution. The long term sustainable solution will involve states, I believe, having to address the question of liability and verdicts. It will involve insurers, if we can get them back in to the industry, and it will involve doctors because at the end of the day doctors will have to continue to pay premiums.


Do you think that Jonathan Shier should have been paid half a million dollars to leave the ABC early, quickly and quietly?


Well, that's a matter for the Board. You will have to speak to the Board. The Board made the decision and the Board has to appoint a replacement.


(inaudible) about the long term solution that you were just talking about then for the doctors?


Look, the Commonwealth Government has stepped in, and has given a guarantee until the 30th of June which has just been endorsed by the New South Wales Supreme Court. Now in order to go forward from there we will need the co-operation, one, from state governments to limit verdicts and liability. Two, if we can get insurers to come back into the market. Thirdly, if the doctors themselves will have to pay premiums to continue their insurance, and we will have to set this up on a long term and sustainable basis. What we have done, is we have given the guarantee for doctors to be able to go back and to continue their operations, that has been endorsed by the New South Wales Supreme Court and discussions will continue to get a long term solution in place.

Thank you.

24 May 2002

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