Insurance premiums on up and up: blame the government

You're paying too much for your general insurance. You're paying too much, thanks to your second-rate state government.

You're paying too much for your general insurance. You're paying too much, thanks to your second-rate state government.

Of course, not all state governments are second-rate - some are third-rate. What's certain is that none are first-class. Every state treasurer consciously takes the coward's path of trying to disguise the revenue grab instead of being honest about the need to levy taxes fairly and rationally.

Every treasurer knowingly levies inequitable taxes that are bad economically and ethically. They do it because they lack the integrity required to take the political flak of genuine tax reform. It's easier for second-rate politicians to just keep doing what their predecessors have done and whinge about the federal government not bailing them out.

And there are few taxes worse than the stamp duty levied on general insurance premiums and real estate transfers. Stamp duty on general insurance premiums effectively taxes - and therefore discourages - something that is good for the economy and society. In a nation that tends to be underinsured, adding an extra 9 or 10 per cent to the cost of insurance premiums is patently stupid and simply wrong.

The Queensland government this month distinguished itself by using the childish excuse of "everyone else is doing it" for lifting the stamp duty burden on general insurance by 20per cent, setting the rate at 9 per cent to match NSW and be a notch under Victoria's 10 per cent rate. (The parental line comes to mind: "And if everyone else jumped off the Harbour Bridge, would you jump too?" In the case of state governments, the answer probably would be yes.)

The amount of tax being levied on businesses is disguised by the use of the stamp duty tool. The average business person is unlikely to realise about 10 per cent of the cost of every general insurance policy is the fault of the state government.

It took the Black Saturday bushfires and the resultant royal commission to shame the Victorian government into dropping the emergency services levy from home and contents insurance policies. But the same principles apply to stamp duty on general insurance policies - it discourages being insured, and it is inequitable in the sense that responsible citizens and businesses end up paying a greater percentage of tax than those who shirk their responsibilities.

The fully insured and the uninsured make the same use of state government services, but only one group pays for it.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.

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