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Bushfire Royal Commission does not go far enough in addressing insurers and bushfire mitigation

The Financial Rights Legal Centre is concerned that recommendations in the final report by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements do not go far enough to address mitigation and the rising costs of insurance.

Financial Rights Chief Executive Officer Karen Cox said many of the recommendations in the Bushfires Royal Commission final report were important and encouraging.

“The Royal Commission has recognised the great challenges consumers face when it comes to the rising costs of insurance in Australia,” Ms Cox said.

“However, Ms Cox said that if Australia wants to assist our regional communities to thrive, we must address insurance affordability in bushfire prone areas.

The Royal Commission recommends that the insurance industry should produce and communicate to consumers clear guidance on individual-level natural hazard risk mitigation actions that insurers will recognise in setting insurance premiums.[1]

“The lack of transparency in insurance premiums and the ability to challenge an insurer’s assessment of risk is a big concern for many consumers particularly people struggling in regional and rural areas,” Ms Cox said.

”Insurers must step up to the plate. Where mitigation work is done, insurers should commit to reducing their premiums.”

Ms Cox said unfortunately the Royal Commission also did not specifically address the need for the Australian Government to increase funding for mitigation projects as was recommended by the NSW Bushfire Inquiry.[2]

“Financial Rights has advised many affected consumers,” Ms Cox said. “Those most likely to be suffering from affordability pressures are least likely to be able to afford to undertake the kinds of mitigation work that could decrease their insurance costs.”

The Final Report by the Bushfire Royal Commission has importantly recognised that bushfire preparedness and resilience needs to be a shared responsibility of governments, businesses, communities and individuals[3].

“We strongly believe governments must move quickly to introduce subsidies for homeowners to make their homes safer and more resilient, before the next bushfires begin,” Ms Cox said.


[1] Recommendation 19.2, The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report. Released 30 October 2020. Available here: https://naturaldisaster.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/royal-commission-national-natural-disaster-arrangements-report

[2] Recommendation 28, Final Report NSW Bushfire Inquiry. Released 31 July 2020. Available here: https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/projects-and-initiatives/nsw-bushfire-inquiry

[3] Paragraph 32, RCNDA Final Report