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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

NSW's insurance Monitor costs taxpayers $11 million

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The NSW Emergency Services Levy (ESL) Monitor has cost taxpayers almost $11 million since it was established in 2016, insuranceNEWS.com.au can reveal.

The NSW Government planned to replace the levy on insurance premiums with a fairer broad-based property tax, and powerful consumer advocate Allan Fels was appointed as ESL Monitor to ensure insurers passed on any savings to customers.

The reform was abandoned in 2017, without consulting the insurance industry and leaving insurers with a $40 million cost to move their systems back to the former settings.

Despite the policy being abandoned, Professor Fels was retained in his role, and he has since been a strong critic of insurers’ pricing strategies.

The cost of the Monitor’s office is not contained in budget papers and ministerial media advisers declined to reveal it, but insuranceNEWS.com.au submitted a request under the state’s freedom of information laws.

The information shows the Monitor’s function has cost $10.93 million from when it was established in 2016 to the end of the first quarter this year.

Just under half – $5.43 million – has been spent on employees, with the remainder allocated to “other operating expenses”.

Informed of the cost, Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) spokesman Campbell Fuller called for the Monitor’s office to be disbanded when its statutory period ends on June 30 next year.

He says taxpayers are paying millions of dollars “for an organisation that has not been required since the NSW Government abandoned ESL reforms in May 2017.

“The industry has been disappointed the Monitor has used his role to pursue investigations that have nothing to do with the emergency services levy.

“However, the industry believes ESL and stamp duty reform should remain on the agenda.

“Insured NSW households are now paying more than 50% in GST, NSW ESL and NSW stamp duties on every premium, and small businesses are typically paying an additional 70% in tax.”

As insuranceNEWS.com.au has pointed out previously, the Monitor’s quarterly reports have not been published since the end of September last year, in apparent contradiction to legislative requirements contained in the Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor Act 2016.

The legislation says the Monitor must provide the Government with a report within 28 days after the end of each quarter, and that the Treasurer has the obligation to publish it “as soon as practicable after receiving the report”.

insuranceNEWS.com.au understands the Monitor has provided the reports on time, but that the Treasurer has failed to publish them. No reason has been given for the extended delay.