Flood levy out­rage

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today -

TOWNSVILLE ratepay­ers will have to bear the brunt of disas­ter in­surance pay­ments for the city thanks to an amend­ment to the flood levy made to ap­pease in­dep e n d e n t S e n a t o r N i c k Xenophon.

Un­der the new scheme, if a state does not have ap­pro­pri­ate disas­ter in­surance, they will not be able to re­ceive the max­i­mum Nat­u­ral Disas­ter Re­lief and Re­cov­ery Ar­range­ments they were pre­vi­ously en­ti­tled to.

The agree­ment will force the states and ter­ri­to­ries to take out in­surance, cre­ate their own disas­ter funds or take equiv­a­lent mea­sures.

With the sup­port of all the other cross­bench sen­a­tors, the levy will be­come a re­al­ity from July, af­fect­ing most Aus­tralians earn­ing more than $ 50,000.

Acting Premier Paul Lu­cas has slammed the de­ci­sion, say­ing it will force states and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to fork out bil­lions of dol­lars to in­sure them­selves against dis­as­ters.

D e p u t y M a y o r D a v i d Crisa­fulli said the sit­u­a­tion was ludicrous.

‘‘ It is ab­so­lutely hor­rific to think that a gov­ern­ment would make a de­ci­sion on some­thing like this with­out even tak­ing the time to find out what these costs would mean for Queens­lan­ders,’’ he said.

‘‘ To­day’s de­ci­sion shows just how out of touch Can­berra is with peo­ple try­ing to make ends meet and pay their bills.’’

Mr Lu­cas said he was glad the levy would pass but crit­i­cised the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and Sen­a­tor Xenophon, say­ing they had de­liv­ered a ‘‘ mas­sive kick in the guts’’ to Queens­land tax­pay­ers.

‘‘ What do you say to ratepay­ers in towns like Gympie, or Dalby or Emer­ald that flood all the time,’’ he said.

‘‘ But un­der this pro­posal, they’re go­ing to have to have in­surance. ‘‘ It will send them broke.’’ The State Gov­ern­ment is cur­rently seek­ing a quote to in­sure its as­sets, in­clud­ing roads, against fu­ture nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

But Mr Lu­cas said Queens­land would strug­gle to find an ap­pro­pri­ate deal be­cause of its size, pop­u­la­tion and reg­u­lar floods and cy­clones.

‘‘ Make no mis­take, in­surance of this type, if you can get it . . . is de­liv­ered by in­ter­na­tional in­surance con­glom­er­ates that do it to make a profit,’’ he said.

‘‘ This doesn’t just mean the state will now have to pay mas­sive pre­mi­ums to over­seas in­surance com­pa­nies, but lo­cal coun­cils will too.’’

He said the gov­ern­ment was still analysing the de­tails of the deal but ques­tioned what would hap­pen to coun­cils who couldn’t af­ford in­surance.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion of Queens­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Greg Hal­lam said c o u n c i l s woul d f a c e a n im­mense fi­nan­cial bur­den in find­ing a way to cover about $ 70 bil­lion in as­sets.

‘‘ Chances are many coun­cils will sim­ply be un­able to af­ford to shoul­der such a bur­den.’’

He said the move could only mean ‘‘ as­tro­nom­i­cal in­creases in costs’’.

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