December 2019


AILA President's message - Cameron Roberts

Volunteers backbone to AILA’s strengths

AILA has provided 36 years of insurance law education.

When the association was formed in June 1983 in Sydney, the founding board was unaware of the outstanding progress AILA would make. There are branches in every state and the Northern Territory, managed by dedicated committees of volunteers who donate hours of their time and are passionate about the industry in which we work.

The national board also works tirelessly on a volunteer basis to manage the association. Without the work of the state and territory committees and the national board, we could not have achieved the following in the last 12 months:

• 80 education and networking events attended by more than 6,200 people
• Maintaining a consistent membership of 1,500 people
• Growing AILA’s social media connections to more than 9,000 people
• Continuing to be the most successful AIDA chapter globally and a pillar of reference for others across the world
• Introducing the Gill Award in honour of founding member Michael Gill
• Continuing the Ron Shorter Award for professionalism in public speaking
• Sponsoring university prizes to support students who represent the industry’s future
• Launching the mentor program in NSW, following a Victorian trial in 2018
• Announcing a merger with the National Product Liability Association
• Launching Ladies@AILA.

Nevertheless, I have no doubt the best is yet to come. There will be exciting announcements over the next 12 months.  Each is aimed at improving AILA’s value proposition, particularly for those working in the industry.

Board retirements

Thank you to two long-standing board members who have retired as directors. David Lee, of Clyde & Co, Sydney, has been on the board for 10 years and was national president from 2012 to 2014. David was instrumental in introducing industry membership categories and improving the industry membership percentage.

Kim Bradey, of the Victorian Bar, leaves the board after 18 years of service, including 11 years as national secretary. Kim has also been on the Victorian committee for 21 years. She is one of only three board members in AILA’s history to reach such a milestone (the others being Michael Gill and Steve Knight).

2019 life membership awards

Two AILA life memberships were awarded at the national conference dinner to South Australia’s Barrie Datson and Western Australia’s Stephen Williams.

Barrie retired from insurance in 2015 after more than 50 years in the industry, but continued to be actively involved with AILA, maintaining the role of SA treasurer for the last five years and working to secure speakers, topics and venues for events. He was a member of the organising committee for three AILA national conferences.

Stephen Williams was a valued member of the WA committee for more than a decade, has been WA president and secretary, and a member of the national board, including serving as vice-president. He is the managing partner at Kott Gunning Lawyers.

Congratulations to two very deserving recipients.

The national conference

The national conference was opened by AILA patron Federal Court Chief Justice James Allsop. He reminded us that good faith is the bedrock of the insurance industry.

While the industry had an “urge for certainty” it was a false premise that more detail provided greater certainty, a point that was evident in Commonwealth policy drafting. It was also evident in some insurers’ policy wordings.

CJ Allsop said monetising and quantifying risk was not new, but insurance had to consider both left and right brain hemispheres. Risk assessment required the analytical left hemisphere consideration but also an understanding of human endeavour and relationships.

In the aftermath of the financial services royal commission came the rhetorical question – what were they thinking? CJ Allsop said: “They weren’t, because the checklist had been ticked, and no one stepped back to look at the context and the relationships between the people” involved.

He said good faith was not limited to honesty; it required acting with decency and fairness. CJ Allsop provided sound food for thought for all of us in the insurance industry.

The presentations included four from Ron Shorter award winners, each of whom spoke eloquently on their chosen topic.

WA winner Joel Speldewinde, from Wotton + Kearney, talked about pure mental harm claims and FIFO workers. He said the stereotype was misunderstood. They were away from their families for long periods, lived in accommodation “that makes backpackers look glamorous”, and had a disproportionately high number of claims for depression and anxiety. “Don’t assume FIFO workers are OK because they earn lots of money,” Joel said.

The Qld, ACT, NT and Tasmanian winner, Bennet Thomas, from QBE, spoke on contractual indemnities, saying contracts had clauses that “can ruin lives and businesses”. “The insurance industry can do better. We have seen large organisations walk away with no penalty for injuries they have caused.”

Vic and SA winner Shannen de la Motte, from AIG, questioned insurers’ use of price optimisation, which uses data analytics to change pricing according to non-risk factors. She urged the industry to find a balance between consumer protection and acceptable parameters for price optimisation to protect vulnerable people.

NSW winner Claudio Trovato, from Meridian Lawyers, said the sharing economy was changing insurance and the industry must respond boldly. There was a vault of untapped potential to provide instant risk assessment and pricing and on-demand cover.

Keynote speakers included Cyber Advisory Practice director Fergus Brooks, who explained cyber risk threats. Read more here.

New developments in class actions were explored by Shine Lawyers special counsel Joshua Aylward. Read more here.

The increasing magnitude of damages awards in defamation cases was outlined by David Gilbertson QC, from the Victorian Bar. Read more here.

Wendy Harris QC, also from the Victorian Bar, spoke on managing non-financial risk in a post-royal commission world. Read more here.

Flammable cladding’s ramifications were covered by a three-member panel of Ferm Engineering CEO Steve Burton; Aon professional indemnity practice leader Mary-Catherine Thomas; and Barry.Nilsson principal Hubert Wajszel.

A session on driverless cars convinced most of us they are the way of the future.

Dr Kirsten McKillop outlined the National Transport Commission’s goal to provide end-to-end regulation to support the safe, commercial deployment and operation of automated vehicles.

She said an automated driver system entity (ADSE) would be deemed to be in control if an ADS was operating and ADSEs would be required to have insurance to cover personal injury, death and property damage caused by an ADS.

Barry.Nilsson. principal Henry Silvester then explored legal and ethical issues for autonomous vehicles and considered potential insurance models for the future.

An ethical debate on whether it was possible to force policyholders to read wordings inspired much hilarity from the audience.

Team Tasmania, Justice Alan Blow and Ken Read SC, from Malthouse Chambers, was pitted against Team Qld, Level Twenty Seven Chambers’ Kristi Riedel and Nola Pearce.

Justice Blow set the tone from the start, saying the debate’s title was an adaptation of a famous Dorothy Parker quote: “You can lead a horticulture, but you cannot make her think.” He argued the same applied to policyholders; you could not force them to read their insurance contracts.

Kristi Riedel argued it was a government responsibility to ensure contracts were read and meant fewer surprises when policyholders lodged claims. “It’s good for everyone except lawyers.”

Ken Read argued a policy’s intrinsic value was the insurer’s ability to make a profit. “Policies are like hospital gowns, there’s not as much cover as you’d expect.”

Mediator Bernie Heinze, executive director of the US-based Federation of Defence & Corporate Counsel, decided Tasmania was the winner on the intensity of the audience applause.

Concurrent sessions covered an array of topics from the dangers of quad bikes, the scary future that climate change is creating, the Lloyd’s restructure, factual investigations, the legal landscape for child abuse in institutional settings, and the cost of wellbeing.

It was an excellent conference. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the 2019 organising committee, led so capably by Kate Stockford, of Page Seager Lawyers. The 2020 organising committee has big shoes to fill, but the vision to achieve that.

A huge thank you to the conference organising committee and the sponsors.

Back to top

Resolve is the official publication of the Australian Insurance Law Association and
the New Zealand Insurance Law Association.