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‘Unsustainable burden’: NSW Budget flags ESL rises

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The National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) has repeated its concern about the NSW Emergency Services Levy (ESL) and the amount that taxes on insurance add to premiums.

The state’s Budget, announced last week, showed no sign of moving away from a levy on insurance to fund emergency services, as so many reviews and inquiries have recommended.

Instead, it highlighted an ESL increase of more than $100 million over four years.

“Revenue from the ESL (including insurer and council contributions) is forecast to be $1.3 billion in 2020/21 and $4.9 billion over the four years to 2023/24,” Budget papers say.

“The increase over the four years, relative to the 2019/20 half-yearly review, reflects the Government’s adoption of recommendations from the NSW independent bushfire review.

“They include investment in the state’s emergency services agencies and fleet replacement, personal protective equipment, mental health support and aerial fire-fighting and training.”

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has previously pointed out that tax on NSW home and contents premiums accounts for more than 50% of the cost. For commercial policies it is even higher – GST, state stamp duties and the ESL account for 60-70%.

“We just remain seriously concerned about the impact on insurance premiums in NSW – it is an unsustainable burden,” NIBA CEO Dallas Booth told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“There is no discussion about it. If the Government does not want to talk to us about it, then the next best thing is for us to encourage the community to talk to Government, and that’s what we’ll do.”

In more positive news, ICA welcomed a NSW Government package to rectify combustible cladding.

Project Remediate will pay interest on loans by commercial lenders to building owners and owners corporations to fast-track the removal of unsafe cladding. At least 230 NSW buildings have already been identified as high risk by the state’s cladding taskforce.

“Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, ICA has been calling for urgent, nationally consistent action to identify and remove flammable cladding from high-rise buildings,” ICA CEO Andrew Hall said.

“[The] announcement of a remediation program in NSW is a positive step towards resolving the use of flammable cladding and other non-conforming products on high-rise residential and commercial buildings.”