Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Northern Australia: Insurance
Tonight I rise to talk about a topic I've spoken about a number of times in the Senate—that is, the high cost of northern Australia insurance and what the government is failing to do to fix this crisis. I have spoken about this issue before, but I think it's important, on the basis of what I'm planning on talking about tonight, that I recap where we're at in the ACCC inquiry and report on northern Australia insurance. The inquiry started in July 2017, so it's been going for a number of years. It has consulted widely and had access to insurance data—so the ACCC has had the power to go in and get data from insurance companies. It has gone out and spoken to communities about the high cost of insurance premiums, which seem to be going up and up and up.
In November the ACCC made 15 draft recommendations. Those recommendations were distributed so that people could consider them, give feedback and discuss them, and so, I would assume, the government could consider them as well. In July this year the ACCC made additional recommendations on top of those first 15. That means we now have 28 final recommendations. I was asked today: 'Are those recommendations final or are we still waiting for the next part of the report?' No. Those recommendations are final. They have been final since July and they need to be considered by the government. Twenty-four of those recommendations relate to action that the federal government could take or legislate for. There are recommendations that the Queensland government or the WA or Northern Territory governments can consider, but they constitute only five of the recommendations that have been made. The insurers also have two recommendations that are solely for them to consider, but the bulk of these recommendations relate to legislation that the government needs to fix.
I have called on the government to implement those recommendations, but, at this stage, they won't even tell us when they're planning to respond to them. In Senate estimates I asked the government if they were even considering the recommendations. 'Oh, I'll take that on notice.' 'But when are you going to give us your response?' 'I'll have to take that on notice.' 'Have you consulted with the community?' 'I'll have to take that on notice.' It seems to me that the government is completely ignoring this report and completely ignoring these recommendations. But there is one member of the government who seems to be keen to take this issue up. It seems like the member for Dawson has forgotten that he's a member of the government at all, because right now the member for Dawson has distributed this proposal—
He hasn't been doing that for six years, has he? He's pointed out exactly what I'm saying. This is from the member for Dawson:
We have hit a crisis point with insurance in North Queensland. Premiums are skyrocketing and some insurance companies are refusing to provide cover in certain 'disaster prone' areas, leaving little to no market competition.
Maybe the member for Dawson has read the report. The rest of the government haven't read the report, but it seems the member for Dawson has read the report. He says, 'Right now I am lobbying both state and federal governments to take action.' The member for Dawson is a member of the government and has been a member of the government for six years and he hasn't done anything until now. Now he wants to tell people in his community that he's out there fighting for them, fighting within the government. Well, I'll tell you what: if the member for Dawson wants to actually take action on this issue, he can start by doing a number of things. He can ask the ministers to answer the questions that I asked at estimates: when will we get a response? He can ask the government to implement the recommendations from the ACCC report. Just walk into a minister's office, ask them to draft legislation, talk about it in your party room and bring it to the table in parliament. We'll support the recommendations. Make sure that it's here. Get it through the Senate. We'll support it. But the member for Dawson knows that this isn't about actually getting anything done or fixing the crisis that they have been talking about for six years. This is about getting out there and campaigning in regional Queensland and bashing up the state government, even though 24 of these recommendations are for the federal government and five of them are for the Queensland government. But this is about going out and bashing the state government. Well, I'll tell you what. People are sick of it. You said you would fix this crisis. It's about time that you took responsibility for it.