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Uninsurable nation? Maybe, maybe not, but action needed either way

The “uninsurable nation” tagline to the Climate Council’s latest report on such issues has raised some hackles within the industry.

As reported by last week, the report says that by 2030 one in 25 Australian homes will be uninsurable.

Whether this is an accurate prediction, and whether it warrants the “uninsurable nation” soundbite, can be debated. Some have called it “alarmist”, others consider it “over-egging the pudding”, but its authors insist it’s make or break time for our country’s “insurability crisis”.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has, perhaps wisely, steered clear of getting too involved. Instead, its focus is on action.

Its position is clear. No area of Australia is currently uninsurable, it insists, while accepting that insurance “can be costly” in flood and cyclone prone areas.

At what point “costly” becomes the same as “uninsurable” in practice will reflect individual circumstances and incomes, and whether 4% of homes facing such issues represents an uninsurable nation is a matter of opinion.

But one thing that cannot, or should not, be debated is that action must be taken on making this country more resilient to natural disasters.

ICA statistics prove that this year’s east coast flooding catastrophe is Australia’s worst on record – with about 200,000 claims totalling $3.4 billion – and climate change is expected to bring such events around with greater frequency and ferocity.

The event has also shown that there are indeed many Australians who consider insurance, or flood cover at least, to be out of reach. You only need to listen to Lismore residents facing annual bills of $30,000 or more to understand that.

And so ICA’s focus is not on wordplay, but changing things for the better.

Its pre-election “building a more resilient Australia” manifesto, published before the floods even struck, gives the next government a clear and detailed check-list of issues that need tackling.

Many of these would assist with insurance affordability, not least the removal of state insurance taxes.

Last week’s publication of research on flood only builds on evidence that increased mitigation investment, a different approach to land-use planning, and revised building standards are desperately needed.

ICA CEO Andrew Hall has not been afraid to speak up when state vs federal funding rows have threatened to frustrate efforts on critical new projects.

And his recent letter to NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is also enlightening.

The recovery must not be carried out piecemeal – an “overarching plan” is needed, and it’s needed soon. The letter contains clear, practical advice on how things need to be done.

ICA has been asked directly what it thinks of the Climate Council report’s predictions, but it will not be drawn.

And really, we could argue all day about what uninsurable means, and how bad things are really going to get, but it wouldn’t change a thing.

Time is better spent pushing through the changes that will make life easier for Australians on the front line of the climate crisis, who need all the help they can get.