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ICA ramps up resilience call ahead of election

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The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has launched a national campaign ahead of the federal election advocating greater government spending to reduce natural catastrophe impacts and wider reforms to drive resilience.

The policy platform, Building a More Resilient Australia, includes 12 areas the ICA has identified as requiring reform, modernisation or investment.

ICA says governments should collectively lift resilience funding to $2 billion over the next five years, and outlines six flood, cyclone and bushfire proposals that it estimates would save governments and households at least $19 billion to 2050.

The proposed measures, developed with actuarial consultancy Finity, include $522 million for local projects such as levees, $413 million to raise utilities and services above expected flood lines, $221 million to cyclone-proof more than 44,000 homes in the north and $712 million to support the selective reduction of fuel in forests.

The report calls for $37 million for an improved national flood early warning system that could increase the lead time from 3-5 days to 10-15 days, and $10 million to establish a national coastal hazard information database.

“In the face of worsening extreme weather, the next Australian Government must boost investment in stronger homes and local infrastructure that makes communities safer and more resilient,” ICA CEO Andrew Hall said.

“This means subsidies to improve the resilience of the nation’s homes and businesses to cyclone, flood, and bushfire, as well as funding for projects that protect the community, like levees, floodways, and fuel reduction.”

ICA calls for a review of land use planning to prevent the building of homes in high-risk areas, strengthened national building codes and the abolition of state and territory duties, levies and taxes on insurance products.

The policy framework looks at the wider regulatory environment and seeks action on issues that have emerged during the pandemic, including limits on personnel movement and the lengthy legal processes involved in resolving business interruption cover disputes.

ICA seeks a national borders policy to assist insurance personnel move across the country, an extension of the “essential workers” definition and amendments to facilitate entry into Australia for repair and recovery responders under existing 482 visa arrangements.

The platform also calls on the next government to amend the Federal Court Act and rules to enable issues of general importance to financial markets to be determined immediately through a test case scheme similar to the more rapid process used in UK business interruption legal action.

The report proposes government action on cyber security, a regulatory pipeline roadmap and a review of tort law arrangements and their impact on the affordability and availability of insurance for SMEs.

ICA is also pressing for policy settings to support “the ongoing health of a thriving and competitive” lenders mortgage insurance market, given pressures from programs such as the New Home Guarantee.

“Together, this suite of policy proposals will support all Australians wherever they live to recover more quickly from unexpected events and be better prepared for the future,” Mr Hall says in the document’s introduction.

Read the ICA's report here.