A COMBINATION of rising premiums and patchy economic growth is contributing to more businesses ditching property insurance.
Commercial insurance premiums have increased by about 15 per cent over the past two years as the industry absorbs natural disasters and global re-insurers reset risk calculations for Australia, particularly its northern regions, the chief executive of the National Insurance Brokers Association, Dallas Booth, said.
"That market is struggling ... because of the recent experience and the repricing by re-insurers," Mr Booth said. "It can be a cash-flow challenge for the business owner to have comprehensive insurance."
The rise in premium prices is even higher for home and contents insurance, which rose 16.4 per cent in the 12 months to the end of September, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority says.
Roy Morgan research out this week shows only 38 per cent of Australian businesses have property insurance, but just 34 per cent in Queensland. Both tallies are down about 6 percentage points from a year earlier.
"The major insurers have been raising premiums in what they consider to be flood-affected areas," the business research director at Roy Morgan, Nigel Smith, said.
Household insurance figures are also falling, separate Roy Morgan research said. Nationally, 90.8 per cent of respondents who owned or were paying off a house held a household insurance policy at the end of December, down from 92.4 per cent at the end of 2008.
Each income category surveyed reported a drop over the period, the survey of 20,705 respondents showed. Notably, those households with incomes of $100,000 or more saw the largest fall over the four years, sinking 3.1 percentage points to 93.3 per cent.
The insurance industry, meanwhile, continues to count the cost of this summer's floods and fires.
So far, about 54,000 claims have been lodged in Queensland for $553 million, the Insurance Council of Australia said on Friday. NSW, which copped less of a deluge and had better flood protection in many towns, has seen about 8000 claims lodged for $20 million in losses.
All up, general insurance companies have had more than 65,000 claims in three states where catastrophes had been declared this summer, with insurance losses "conservatively estimated" at $674 million, the council said.
"Many parts of Australia have not yet reached the peak of their local disaster seasons," the chief executive of the ICA, Rob Whelan, said.
Few businesses take out insurance coverage for disruption of business, Roy Morgan says, just 16 per cent nationwide.
Mr Booth said the Tasmanian fires did not reach the historic Port Arthur area but it was inaccessible for two weeks.
"You had major cruise ships in Hobart nearly every day that would have sent six to eight busloads to Port Arthur but didn't," Mr Booth said.