Whit­sun­day pays trib­ute to Mar­garet

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

MAR­GARET Shaw’s eyes glis­ten with tears and her voice shakes as she re­calls the 83year-old woman, who for the first time in her life, couldn’t pay her bills be­cause her in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums were so high.

“Peo­ple don’t de­serve that,” she says, reach­ing for a hand­ker­chief from her bag.

It is this level of emo­tional at­tach­ment and the de­sire to right an in­cred­i­ble wrong that has seen Ms Shaw em­bark on a five-year cru­sade to bring the in­sur­ance in­dus­try into line.

On Tues­day she was fi­nally recog­nised for her ef­forts on home turf, be­com­ing the 2016 Ci­ti­zen of the Year for Air­lie Beach.

It was 2011 when Ms Shaw’s own strata in­sur­ance at Air­lie’s Sea Star Apart­ments went up from $25,000 to $81,000 lit­er­ally “overnight”.

And she soon dis­cov­ered she wasn’t alone.

In­censed at the in­jus­tice of not just strata but other in­sur­ances, Ms Shaw started lob­by­ing in­sur­ers and politi­cians and was in­stru­men­tal in the es­tab­lish­ment of a cross-party fed­eral in­quiry.

Though the then-La­bor govern­ment chose not to im­ple­ment any of the in­quiry’s nine rec­om­men­da­tions, she didn’t give up, start­ing an on­line pe­ti­tion in 2012 and go­ing on to be­come the only con­sumer rep­re­sen­ta­tive on an ad­vi­sory panel to the cur­rent North­ern Aus­tralia In­sur­ance Pre­mi­ums Task Force.

As MC for the Proser­pine Aus­tralia Day cel­e­bra­tions David Hin­schen put it, “Mar­garet Shaw has gone be­yond the bar­ri­ers... the blank walls, the shut doors, and knocked them down on be­half of North­ern Aus­tralia and North Queens­land in par­tic­u­lar”.

“In her vol­un­teer role as an in­sur­ance ad­vo­cate she has re­fused to take no for an an­swer and bat­tled on... (and) I know she will not stop un­til the peo­ple of North Queens­land can af­ford their in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums. Thou­sands of peo­ple are re­ly­ing on her,” he said.

Ms Shaw, who re­ceived an anony­mous nom­i­na­tion for Aus­tralian of the Year in 2015 and was recog­nised with a state award, said it meant a lot “that my home town now knows what’s gone on and what I’ve done - and that one per­son can ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence”.

FIGHT­ING THE FIGHT: Mar­garet Shaw, pic­tured with much of Air­lie’s strata ti­tle build­ings in the dis­tance be­hind her, the res­i­dents of which she is still fight­ing to pro­tect.

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