Tuesday, 20 June 2023
Northern Australia Joint Select Committee; Report
The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, which I am privileged to chair, released its report into Northern Australia's Cyclone Reinsurance Pool in March this year. I want to thank my colleague Mr Neumann for tabling this report in my place and for his fine words.
I want to use this opportunity to thank my colleagues on the Northern Australian Committee, the member for Solomon, Luke Gosling; the member for Blair, Shayne Neumann; Senator Nita Green; and, of course, we had a lot of fun with the deputy chair of the committee, Mr Warren Entsch. It was a collegiate inquiry and one that highlights the good results of working in a collaborative and bipartisan matter.
I want to thank the fantastic staff of the committee secretariat, Patrick, Ros and Jason. This was a dense topic and required a deep dive into many technical aspects of the legislation and the scheme. Their work and professionalism made this a very easy inquiry to chair.
I also want to thank all of the witnesses who appeared before the committee for their evidence and insight. Our insurance industry has an important role to play in the liveability of Northern Australia, and I believe they appeared in good faith and have continued to engage in a productive manner with my office.
On the matter of the cyclone reinsurance scheme itself, the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia was able to put forward a solid report which explored some of the issues relating to the cyclone insurance scheme. The committee made a number of modest recommendations, all aimed at minor improvements. Namely, (1) ensuring data was and can be released in a timely manner prior to key milestones of the scheme, (2) reviewing the availability and coverage of the insurance, (3) reviewing the 48-hour clause on the cost of insurance premiums, (4) that the Australian government announce a position on the inclusion of maritime insurance and (5) the coordination of land use, planning, building codes and mitigation to ensure all levels of government are working together.
One of the prevailing issues was the expectation of the scheme put forward by the former government. This was noted by the committee in its report. As a committee, we also noted the pressure householders and households in northern Australia were under when it came to insurance premiums. This has been an enduring issue, and with the increase in the frequency of cyclonic activity and flooding, it is something that government and community will need to respond to. The committee also noted that, while a number of large insurers have joined, the scheme is not yet established enough to conduct a more comprehensive assessment. A small number of large insurers still need to join, as well as medium and small insurers. Only then can we fully assess the impact of the cyclone reinsurance scheme in reducing its premiums.
Something raised in the inquiry process, in which I am particularly interested, is how we mitigate the effects of natural disasters. Our climate is changing, and that is something that is as clear as day. We must ensure our communities' infrastructure is resilient and fit for purpose. Over the last few years we have seen the serious impact of natural disasters right across the nation, but particularly so in northern Australian. Recent flooding in my electorate of Lingiari highlighted just how vulnerable many communities are to natural disasters. I want to single out and thank our Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, for his work on disaster readiness. I also want to thank the Minister for Northern Australia and Minister for Resources, Madeleine King, and the Assistant Treasurer for their support in this Inquiry. I thank and look forward to working with other members of the committee in due course, when the time comes for us to review and re-look at the scheme and its viability moving forward.