Prime Minister of Australia

05/04/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/03/2021 20:33

Interview with Murray Jones, 4CA


MURRAY JONES: Sorry about that, I don't know what's happened while I've been away, but a lot of things have changed. But I appreciate your time this morning. Live from Rockhampton. Interesting start to Queensland. I won't be doing any contrasting. You got a bit of an unusual welcome from our Deputy Premier yesterday, didn't you?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, well, I mean, he has a habit of carrying on like a bit of an idiot. But, anyway, when he does that stuff … he says he started … oh well, fair enough, I'm happy to accept his word on that.

JONES: OK, we'll move on from that one.

PRIME MINISTER: Water off a duck's back.

JONES: Sure. Well, look, let's talk about something that I guess has been an issue for North Queenslanders for many, many decades. Now, we're talking about a 50 per cent saving on insurance premiums on the horizon with a reinsurance pool to the tune of $10 billion. Unusual for the government to basically step in. But I guess in a situation like this, of market failure, you've really had no choice.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is something I know people right across Australia's north, but particularly in north Queensland, and particularly Warren Entsch up there in Cairns, has been arguing for some time. We've listened to people very carefully. And what this does is it basically puts a floor underneath the insurance industry up in north Queensland and that will encourage more insurance companies into the market, which is very important to drive down the cost of those premiums. Now, the government hasn't said 50 per cent. That's what others are speculating. We have a more cautious view about that. But let's just see how that plays out. But what's important is we've got to put that $10 billion of guarantee on the insurance sector up there so we can get more companies in. We've also got a $40 million program, which is a pilot program for strata title resilience to deal specifically with the problems that we've seen, especially up there in north Queensland on strata title arrangements. So this is very practical. It's a real problem. I know it's been a cause of great concern in the North for a very long time, and this is necessary to ensure that people continue to be able to live and work in north Queensland.

JONES: Let's talk a little bit more about body corporates, because I guess that's been a real issue for particularly people here in tropical north Queensland. It's a type of model that a lot of people use. What can be done to reduce some of the prices when it comes to body corporate insurance?

PRIME MINISTER: What this involves is, it's a three year resilience pilot, set at $40 million to reduce cyclone risk for residential strata properties in northern Australia. They face some of the most acute insurance affordability pressures in northern Australia. In 2018-19, the ACCC said the average strata premium was $6,800 in north Queensland, compared with an Australian average around $3,300. So they have few options. So what is needed to lower that risk and lower those premiums is to reduce the expected damage caused by natural hazards. So that's us supporting putting in place mitigation investments that can create benefits for the residents, but also for the insurance companies to ensure that they're mitigating the risk of these cyclones so that again a very practical way. Now, the other thing I should stress here, Murray, is that all of this is being done without levying others in other parts of the country to put these controls in place, to put these supports in place. Plenty of people have said to us, 'you need to put levies on everybody else's insurance right across the country to do this.' We didn't think that was fair either. And I don't think North Queenslanders would want us to do that either. So that's why we've stepped in with some practical responses on the strata and we'll get that right, through that pilot program. But more broadly, by putting in place the floor, if you like, the solid foundation for insurance in north Queensland by putting that $10 billion guarantee on the reinsurance pool. And this is the same mechanism we use in the terrorist insurance mechanism. It's run by the same people. This will ensure a fairer deal for people living in the north.

JONES: Well, it's certainly about time. And it looks like, from what I can see here around about July next year it's likely to come into effect?

PRIME MINISTER: This is what we hope. But I got to say, Warren Entsch has been a dog with a bone on this, and rightly so. This is something he has been advocating for, for a very long period of time, together with all our North Queensland MPs. Phil Thompson there, down in Townsville and so many others, they've done a great job because we've had inquiries into this. It's a very difficult issue to solve. It's easiest to say it's not usual for the government to get into these areas. But there is a very special need in northern Australia. We're serious about supporting northern Australia as a place to live, a place to work, and for people to raise their families and live their lives. And this is one of the practical things we've got to do to ensure that that lifestyle can be maintained.

JONES: Look, speaking of maintaining our lifestyle as we wrap up this morning. Obviously, some concerning things happening in India at the moment. But can we just touch on China? Media reports again this morning about the escalating tensions with China. No doubt it was a fair call by you to basically push for an investigation into the COVID outbreak. But considering the impact that this has basically had on Australia, would it have been, you know, diplomatically more wise at the time to actually wait until we had a coalition of countries? Because Australia has been very much singled out in recent months.

PRIME MINISTER: No, well it would be wrong to suggest there was any one thing here. The tensions we're currently facing, the challenge we're facing, have been as a result over many years now. And the suggestion that it's any one item, I don't accept that. And the wise analysts on this have got the same view. What we're doing is ensuring that we maintain our ground as a country on our sovereign interests, that we stand up for Australia and our values, and how we want to live our lives here in Australia. And we'll respect the way that China wants to do that. We want to have a peaceful relationship where we can trade and get on with each other in the region. And that's what we're seeking to achieve. But we're not going to do that by, you know, by compromising on the things that Australia feels most passionately about and our values.

JONES: Sure. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, sorry about the issue with the phones this morning, but great to talk to you.

PRIME MINISTER: Good on you, Murray. All the best. Look forward to seeing everybody in Cairns.

JONES: See you soon, cheers.