As bushfires continue to burn across Australia, leading insurers met with members of the Australian government in Canberra earlier this week. Heads of some of Australia’s largest insurers met Treasurer James Frydenberg on Tuesday to provide an update on events, as well as to gauge in which areas both parties could work together on the recovery operation.
Following the meeting, Frydenberg told reporters in the capital that the meeting allowed for insurers to provide invaluable information to the government.
“We received an update from the Insurance Council and CEOs about the progress to date,” Frydenberg told the assembled press. “As well as what they expect to encounter during the coming weeks and months as we get support to those people that need it most.”
In attendance for the meeting with Treasury officials was the chief executive of the ICA, Rob Whelan, as well as chiefs and senior staff from IAG, Suncorp, QBE, Allianz Australia, Zurich, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac.
Whelan explained that industry leaders had provided the government with a comprehensive update on the work related to the ongoing bushfires.
“We reassured Treasurer Frydenberg that the industry is harnessing all resources to help customers in the four states affected by catastrophic bushfires,” said Whelan. “The meeting was conducted in a spirit of openness and collaboration and was highly productive.”
The ICA noted that since the bushfires started, nearly 9,000 claims had been lodged that totalled almost $700 million – the vast majority of which have come from within NSW. More than 25.5 million acres of land the size of South Korea had been destroyed by the bushfires, as the current crisis becomes arguably one of the most devasting in the nation’s history. And with bushfires expected to continue, experts believe that insurance-related figures will continue to grow in the coming weeks.
Even with the unprecedented number of claims, the industry is well placed to work effectively and compassionately in this crisis believes one insurance insider. Industry specialist Paul Muir, founder and director of Compliance Advocacy Solutions, told Insurance Business that insurers are working on all cylinders to provide effective relief and solutions for affected customers.
“This is what the insurance industry is geared up for – this is where the industry is at its very best,” said Muir. “Insurers have been responding to these sorts of natural disasters for a long period of time – and they do it very well.”
Muir told Insurance Business that events such as the bushfires are what the insurance industry is there for, and that Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for both parties to share important updates and provide clarity, whatever the optics.
“I don’t think the insurance industry needs anyone telling them how to go about responding to events such as this,” said Muir. “In times like these, this is where you see the very best of the insurance industry.”
The meeting was also an opportunity for insurers to provide important information to the government.
“Insurers are on the ground in these places, seeing and hearing what’s happening, so they have become a valuable source of information,” Muir explained. “They are there, talking to people, so they provide quite valuable information and data.”
Both the government and insurers have made significant efforts to help those affected. The government has pledged $2 billion to the recovery process while various insurers have been working tirelessly for their affected customers. Insurance Business has previously reported the on-the-ground efforts of insurers such as Suncorp and Allianz Australia, where teams have been present in affected areas and 24/7 hotlines have been established. Similarly, IAG has a presence in the Melbourne Convention Centre to help affected customers while QBE has announced that it has waived the policy excess for affected customers.
A refocus on collaborative methods between the government and industry will take place as Treasurer Frydenberg outlined both parties’ commitment to a joint-working-pledge.
“Representatives provided assurances that the insurance industry was absolutely committed to working in partnership with policyholders, governments, the building industry and other stakeholders to carry out the required repair and rebuilding work,” Frydenberg said. “We also discussed how insurers and government can continue to work together, including sharing detailed data about the response.”
With the government and the industry working hand-in-hand during this difficult time to provide relief to those who need it most, this can only be a good thing.
“It should be seen in a very positive light,” Muir told Insurance Business. “The impetus now is getting people back on their feet as fast as we can.”