INNISFAIL, AUSTRALIA — FEBRUARY 03: A local resident walks through the main street of Tully on February 3, 2011 in Tully, Australia.
INNISFAIL, AUSTRALIA — FEBRUARY 03: A local resident walks through the main street of Tully on February 3, 2011 in Tully, Australia.

North Queenslanders hit out at insurance premium costs

HUNDREDS of North Queenslanders have hit out at the rising cost of insurance premiums in submissions to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry saw submissions from residents in areas such as Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Whitsundays and Hinchinbrook.

The issues paper asked residents to give feedback on costs, premiums and profits, competition, consumer experiences, risk mitigation and regulation in the insurance sector.

The overwhelming response was that insurance premiums in Northern Australia had skyrocketed following weather events such as severe cyclones Yasi and Debbie.

Hinchinbrook Shire Council said leading insurer Suncorp labelled almost all of Far North Queensland (up to 99 per cent) as a high risk area following Cyclone Yasi in 2011, which saw resident's premiums double, even triple, with no added benefit or increase of cover.

"The premiums are not reflective of your current financial predicament, there is no factor for pensioners or low income workers," the submission added.

Cairns Regional Council echoed these concerns, suggesting insurers were using council's storm surge mapping to increase premiums.

"We are often criticised for making publicly available the storm surge mapping as insurance companies appear to use this information to raise insurance levels," disaster management resilience officer Sioux Campbell said.

"There is therefore tension in the disaster management arena between the provision of public safety information and the same information being widely available for manipulation by other users."

Mr Campbell said insurance premiums had gone up exponentially in the six years since Tropical Cyclone Yasi.

Mackay resident Peter McCallum said he believed his insurance premiums had tripled following the 2008 rainfall event in Mackay.

"Over the next few years the price of insurance rose considerably from under $1000 per annum to close to $4000 now," he said.

 

"What we have found is that our choice of insurers has declined and the premiums have steeply increased."

Mr McCallum also said few insurers were willing to insure timber homes built prior to the 1980s.

"There are only a few insurers such as the Commonwealth Bank, Suncorp and RACQ who will insure us … of those, some exclude significant risks such as storm surge, which can occur as a result of a cyclone," he said.

"There is almost no point insuring with those companies given cyclone is the most significant issue in our decision to insure."

Townsville City Council said it would be putting forward a submission.

"Council has received an extension to put in its submission due to the significant ongoing effort in ensuring the city's recovery from the unprecedented monsoon," Mayor Jenny Hill said.

"I have also held several discussions directly with the insurance industry - including hosting a roundtable - in the aftermath of this natural disaster to ensure residents and businesses don't get short-changed by their insurer.

"The council's submission to the ACCC's Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry will be completed in the coming weeks."