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Bushfire inquiry receives more than 1400 submissions

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More than 1400 public submissions, making up over 12,000 pages, were lodged ahead of the royal commission into the handling of last summer’s devasting bushfires.

Organisations made around 300 submissions and individuals the rest, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements revealed. They will be published on a rolling basis on the commission’s website.

The first phase of online hearings will take place next month and the inquiry is scheduled to deliver its final report by August 31.

In a submission from Suncorp published on its website, the insurer recommends taxes and charges should be removed from insurance policies, or the method of calculation be revised so that customers in higher-risk areas are not paying “more in taxes as well as higher base premiums.”

Suncorp’s 28-page submission calls for the Federal Government to address a “chronic shortfall” in funding for disaster mitigation with a $200 million a year boost, to be matched by the states and territories.

“Successive governments have wrongly ignored the imbalance of spending 97% of our disaster funding on recovery, and only 3% on prevention and mitigation,” Suncorp says.

It says the GST should not be charged on insurance premiums, proposing instead that customers receive either a cash payment or tax offset to spend on resilience measures.

And Suncorp suggests the Insurance Council of Australia should be granted permanent membership to the Australian Building Codes Board.

In its submission, the National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) calls for “a fairer, more equitable” emergency services funding model and the abolition of insurance-based taxes such as NSW’s Emergency Services Levy and Tasmania’s Fire Service Levy in favour of a broad-based property levy, similar to the one introduced in Victoria following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

NIBA says compounding of various state and federal taxes can account for up to 70% of insurance premiums and this adds to the number of Australians who are uninsured or underinsured. The levies are “inequitable and needlessly opaque,” NIBA says.

“Inefficient and poorly designed tax systems should not be stacked on top of each other for the sole purpose of collecting revenue at the expense of the public good.”