10 December 2014: KAP Leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter said today that the Public Meetings held in Edmonton and Innisfail over the last 2 days to address sky-rocketing insurance premiums were clear in their demands – the number one being for a State Government Insurance Office.
Approximately 600 people attended the public meetings held in Edmonton on Monday and Innisfail on Tuesday night, including Councillors, the respective Chambers of Commerce, Advance Cairns, local business people, radio, newspapers and the Insurance Council of Australia.
“The primary allegation is that there is outrageous profiteering going on by insurance companies, using the excuse of the two cyclones,” Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter said that there were several vitally important points that came out of the meeting.
“The first is the call for a State Government Insurance Office to provide insurance without making a corporatised profit.
“The second is to introduce a levy to cover any cyclone scenario. The Australian government has a terrorist levy and New Zealand has an earthquake levy, so in the event of either scenario there’s money there to cover it.
“The other argument constantly mounted were the recent hail storms in Brisbane. The insurance companies have put the cost at $300 million and they made an announcement there’d be no change in rates, despite it being about the fourth hailstorm of that velocity in Brisbane.”
Mr Katter continued to push the message that all houses built prior to the pre Cyclone-Tracey building code had now been destroyed. He said the only houses that are left are the ones that have stood up to two of the worst cyclones in Australian history.
“The ‘goneable’ houses are gone,” Mr Katter said.
Mike Kennedy, the retired Chief of the Weather Bureau in North Queensland, read out historical statistics and data that showed the pattern of cyclonic activity has not changed in 150 years.
“So why were insurance companies charging $800 per annum three years ago and $4,000 per annum now? What has changed? The weather pattern hasn’t changed,” Mr Katter said.
Prominent businessman Wayne Kimberley attended the meeting and quoted the insurance figures on his El Arish Tavern.
“In 1995 I was paying $4,500 per year on insurance for the hotel, now it is $28,500. My excess is $50,000. The real thing is that if the insured event is a “named cyclone”, I can only claim 50% of my loss,” Mr Kimberley said.
Trent Twomey of Advance Cairns said at the meeting that insurance premiums need to be addressed to continue to develop Far North Queensland. He gave the example of his investment property, which despite being debt free, has to be negatively geared in order to cover the costs of insurance premiums along with rates and electricity.
Mr Katter said that insurance companies had pointed to people paying for flood cover when they were on hills, or insuring for land and house value when they should just insure for house value.
However, Mr Katter said he had continually been told that when people questioned these aspects of their policies, they were told to accept it or they would not be covered.
“One of the very worrying factors is that in my view, 1 in 20 are simply not taking out insurance, or are under-insuring”, Mr Katter said.
“If the government thinks they’re going to escape, they’re not. If we have another natural disaster, the government will have to foot the bill to replace those homes.”
Mr Katter said that the other constantly reiterated theme was dodgy workmanship following the cyclones.
“One person gave an example of his roof having been originally built for $17,000 – it was blown off in the cyclone and cost $56,000 to replace it – and the job was botched up by a southern fly-by-night operator”.
“The building companies that were contracted to insurance companies often employed very substandard tradesman and did work that wasn’t effectively oversighted,” Mr Katter said.
Councilor Ian Rule said that the local builders who had to live in the town after the cyclone prospered on the basis of their reputation and could always be counted on to do a good job.
The resolutions agreed to at the meetings were:
1. Federal/State Government introduce legislation similar to the NT model (Previously the State Government Insurance Company (SGIO) in QLD)
2. Increased accuracy of flood mapping for FNQ
3. Council coordinate the correct and historical mapping of each individual property into their database
4. Ground-truthing assessment of information
5. Increased transparency of premiums
6. Increased understanding of Tropical Cyclone risk to FNQ – for insurance providers
7. Advocate for decreased stamp duty
1. Introduce a State Government Insurance Company (SGIO)
2. Reduce stamp duty
3. Preferential treatment to local builders (as opposed to out-of-town contractors)
4. Ability to exclude flood levy from premiums
5. Ability to pay cyclone insurance for cyclone season
6. Implement a national catastrophe pool levy (similar to NZ)
7. Implement a good behaviour bond (if no claims)
8. Increased funding for data research
9. Tax breaks for insurance companies prepared to cover NQ (similar to zonal tax rebates)
10. No penalty for payment frequency
11. Extra time for re-insurance timeframes (currently 10 days and not enough time to get other quotes)