Insurance struggle year on from bushfires

11 November 2020

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AUSTRALIA – A year on from the Black Summer bushfires many businesses are struggling to get insurance, federal parliament has been told.

Labor MP Kristy McBain, whose southern NSW seat of Eden-Monaro was one of the worst-hit during the fires, said she was being approached by large and small business concerned they couldn’t insure their properties.

She said this was despite the “positive” work of the Insurance Council.

“Either the cost is just too prohibitive, or insurance companies simply aren’t willing to take on the risk and offer a policy,” she told parliament on Wednesday.

There were also concerns about home insurance availability.

“This is a worrying trend and has the potential to undermine the very confidence and investment needed to drive jobs and renewal,” Ms McBain said.

One business operator had raised the idea of restoring a government insurance office to help get better deals, she said.

However, she said the government had a duty to act on the recommendations of the recent royal commission into the national natural disaster response and the 240 inquiries that came before it.

“The time for action is long overdue both in terms of natural disaster preparedness and climate action,” she said.

The royal commission recommended the insurance industry should produce and communicate to consumers clear guidance on individual-level natural hazard risk mitigation actions that insurers will recognise in setting insurance premiums.

But the Financial Rights Legal Centre believes the report did not go far enough to address mitigation and the rising costs of insurance.

“The lack of transparency in insurance premiums and the ability to challenge an insurer’s assessment of risk is a big concern for many consumers, particularly people struggling in regional and rural areas,” Financial Rights chief executive Karen Cox said.

“Insurers must step up to the plate. Where mitigation work is done, insurers should commit to reducing their premiums.”

As well, mitigation work should be subsidised to ease the cost burden, as was recommended by the NSW bushfire inquiry.

Australian Associated Press

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