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We’ll meet again: no action from Building Ministers’ Forum

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The Building Ministers’ Forum agreed in Canberra today to discuss the professional indemnity crisis in the construction sector with the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) at another meeting in February.

The forum, which is led by Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews, will also “discuss a suite of measures” to counter the crisis, the forum says in a communiqué.

It says the next discussion aims to explore ways to “reduce the cost and improve the availability of professional indemnity insurance premiums for building industry practitioners”.

“Enduring solutions, that reduce the cost of insurance for building industry practitioners and ensure protection for consumers, must be underpinned by the systemic reforms that are being implemented.

“States and territories agreed to achieve greater national consistency with regards to licensing requirements for professional indemnity insurance.”

The outcome of today’s meeting appears to have fallen short of the building practitioners’ expectations. This week they were pushing for building ministers to take immediate action to address the crisis, which has been brought about by insurers limiting the professional indemnity cover of building surveyors and other construction professionals.

The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS), which has been vocal in its criticism of the way governments have dealt with the problem so far, says it is not sure how another meeting with insurers in February will make any difference.

“I’m not sure what this meeting is going to achieve that other meetings haven’t,” AIBS CEO Brett Mace told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“We’ve all been in meetings with the Insurance Council during the course of this year. They were at the last forum in Sydney.”

ICA told insuranceNEWS.com.au it is "encouraged that some progress has been made in the past six months".

"[ICA] looks forward to engaging with the Building Ministers Forum to encourage action to be taken on meaningful building regulation reform," spokesman Campbell Fuller said.

"ICA ​will reiterate the improvements required before insurers would consider providing unrestricted professional indemnity insurance products."