Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021


North Queensland: Insurance

7:25 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak on a very important economic issue impacting North Queensland, particularly Far North Queensland. I have spoken on many occasions about the North Queensland insurance crisis in this place, because the cost of insurance in North Queensland continues to go up and this government continues to do nothing to fix it. The Morrison government has already failed to deliver on its promise to drive down the cost of insurance premiums and improve the availability for residents in northern Australia. The Assistant Treasurer said that this was an issue of such importance that the government was going to respond to the ACCC's findings before the ACCC handed down its final report. This did not happen. For the last seven years, members of this government, including the member for Leichhardt, the member for Dawson and now the member for Herbert, have promised to fix this crisis, yet they have failed to implement one single recommendation from the ACCC reports. We know that they've been describing this as a crisis for a long time, even as far back as 2015, yet nothing has been done. The government is not taking mitigation funding seriously, one of the big recommendations from the report, one of the things that insurers say will bring down prices in northern Australia. Out of $4 billion announced in the government's Emergency Response Fund, not one single dollar has been spent. Currently only three per cent of natural disaster funding is being spent on mitigation.

The members in Far North Queensland and North Queensland, particularly the member for Dawson—but now the member of Herbert has jumped on this as well—have spent a lot of time holding forums and talkfests, talking about what they are going to do to fix this problem. Yet, since the ACCC handed down its first interim report on 18 December 2018, of the 15 recommendations from that report, not one has been implemented. Of the 28 recommendations from the second interim report, released a year later, on 20 December 2019, not one single recommendation has been implemented. Most recently, on 20 January 2021, the ACCC handed down its final report, after three years of investigating this incredibly important issue. Not a single one of those recommendations has been implemented by this government.

In fact, the local members in Far North Queensland and North Queensland have decided that they don't like the ACCC report because it's not giving them the answers that they want. They've decided that the recommendations of the ACCC report, after all that hard work and cost to produce them, aren't something they are interested in implementing. They are out there talking about a reinsurance pool, but we know the ACCC recommended strongly against this course of action. The ACCC said it probably wouldn't work and, if it were implemented, it would cost a lot of money. That's not what the member for Herbert or the member for Dawson are out there telling people; they are saying this is going to be the magic bullet: 'Forget about the ACCC recommendations, all 38 of them; we don't need to implement those. What we need to do is find another solution to talk to you about that takes the blame off us, that takes the impetus off us to do something about this.'

The ACCC made recommendations around consumer behaviour, around mitigation, around banning broker commissions, around introducing a comparison website and around regulatory changes, and not one single recommendation has been implemented by this government. The government haven't even said if they are planning on implementing these recommendations. People in Far North Queensland and North Queensland are getting pretty sick and tired of hearing members of this government say that this is a huge problem, that this is a crisis, that it needs to be fixed but we don't have the answers to fix it. Roll up your sleeves, do the hard work, listen to the recommendations that have been handed down and find some solutions, because our economic recovery in North Queensland depends on getting this right. This isn't mudslinging from the opposition; this is just asking those opposite to do your job. Do your job and fix the insurance crisis now.