Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Home insurance dilemma

I live on the side of a hill in a generally elevated area so my exposure to flood risk is nil. So I was rather unhappy that my most recent annual insurance premium was around $2,000. So it is obvious that people in flood-prone areas must be much more heavily hit in order to insure their properties. And Australia has been having a lot of flooding recently

The actuaries have to be realistic. Premiums must reflect the probability of a successful claim. And in areas where natural hazards are great, that means that premiums have to be very large -- so large as to be unaffordable in unlucky cases.

There is no cure for it. The value of a house is large so any payour will be large. And a lot of large payouts could bankrupt the insurers. So they have to recover enough money to cover their claims. And that can mean sky-high premiums.

In the circumstances many people will go uninsured. They will have to cover their own risks however they can. And unless they are big savers when the expected adverse events happen, they will be without a home and penniless.

Governments can sometimes do something to help the most disastrously affected people. Some governments offer "buybacks" of flooded properties but the cost ensures that only a few people can be helped in that way.

The real solution is for people to stop setting up house in endangered areas. That would denude whole suburbs if it was widely done, however, so is likely to be done to only a small extent.

A small consolation is that the price of a home in a badly affected area will be significantly reduced but whether buying there is worth the gamble has to be an individual and personal decision.

One million households in Australia already face “extreme” levels of insurance stress and will bear the brunt of future premium hikes.

The report, prepared by analytics firm Finity Consulting and commissioned by the Actuaries Institute, examines the cost and affordability of home insurance this year and in 2050, in both a high-emissions and low-emissions future.

Previous estimates have found that by 2030, more than half a million homes would be “uninsurable” because of spiralling premiums.

This latest research is even more dire.

Vulnerable households – defined in the report as the one in ten households spending the largest share of income on insurance – currently pay an average of 7.4 weeks’ pre-tax income on their premiums.

This compares to an average of one week of income paid by the rest of the population.

“That it is already as much as 10 per cent of households, or 1 million households, that was surprising. I didn’t think it was that bad,” says Sharanjit Paddam, the report’s lead author.

Previous research into household insurance risks did not include income in their calculations, and may not accurately reflect what is affordable for different households.

This report defines “extreme affordability pressure” as more than four weeks’ pre-tax income – a threshold that aligns with other research on financial stress and vulnerable populations.

“This is not just a problem about the cost of insurance; it’s also a problem of people’s ability to pay,” says Mr Paddam, an actuary with Finity’s climate and ESG practice.

“So, if [other reports] are talking about 500,000 [uninsurable homes] by 2030, then we think that we’re already there.”

Every neighbourhood has vulnerable residents

While vulnerable households are concentrated in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern New South Wales, the report emphasises that vulnerable households exist in every council area in Australia.

Some of the most vulnerable populations are in metropolitan or inner-city locations.

In the City of Melbourne, for example, one in five households is under extreme affordability pressure, while in the City of Adelaide, it’s one in 11.

In both these local government areas (LGAs), the annual insurance premium already costs some residents, including retirees, more than 20 weeks’ income, a nominal figure indicating they effectively have no income.

In the City of Sydney, where one in seven households is vulnerable, the median household in this group spends an average of 5.8 weeks’ income on the annual premium.

“People on low incomes are impacted first, worst and longest by extreme weather events … because they don’t have the same financial means to cope, adapt, and recover,” says Kellie Caught, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) climate and energy program director.

On top of that, low-cost housing, including rental properties, tends to be in higher-risk areas, like flood or bushfire zones, and built to poorer standards.

This overlap between climate risk and socioeconomic disadvantage means the most vulnerable people are likely to live in the least resilient housing and in the riskiest areas. “Because that’s what they can afford,” Ms Caught says.

Half of households paying premiums of more than $2,000 earn less than $65,000, according to the report.

“Retirees, individuals over 60, and single adult households are very much in the vulnerable group,” Mr Paddam says.

They are also more likely to be single parents or living alone, women, renting, and to have low insurance literacy and low savings.

“The reality is that the people who are most impacted by natural disasters are often low socioeconomic status … and don’t have the capability to move or to pay to improve their homes,” says Actuaries Institute chief executive Elayne Grace.

And when catastrophe strikes, the financial and emotional toll can be unbearable, Ms Caught says.

It’s not just the task of rebuilding an uninsured home. Families are usually hit with pricier food, rent and other essentials as the area struggles to recover, while moving elsewhere often means leaving jobs, schools and support networks, she says.

“So you just have these compounding factors that have a significant impact on your ability to keep your head above the water …. I mean, there’s a breaking point, right?”


Police drop anti-lockdown incitement charge against Ballarat woman Zoe Buhler

A Ballarat woman who was charged with inciting others to breach a state lockdown has had her case thrown out of court.

Zoe Buhler was arrested in her Ballarat home in September 2020 while pregnant.

The mother-of-three livestreamed her arrest, showing police handcuffing her in a video that later went viral and sparked concerns from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The arrest came after she created a protest event on social media, citing concerns about the impacts of lockdowns during the pandemic.

In the Ballarat Magistrates Court this morning, police prosecution applied to have the charge struck out, which was approved by Magistrate Mark Stratmann.

In a statement, Victoria Police said they withdrew the single charge following an assessment of the case, determining it was "not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution".

Ms Buhler, now 30 years old, said she was relieved but had "no regrets" outside the court this morning. "I think it's disgusting our rights and freedoms were taken away. I've pretty much felt that way the whole time," Ms Buhler said.

"I'll be considering my options going forward, especially with regards to being handcuffed while pregnant."

Ms Buhler said she believed she had been experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the legal costs of contesting the incitement charges had been a burden.

Costs will be agreed upon between the parties at a later date.

"There was money raised to help with the costs of lawyers," she added. "I don't even know how much [it was]. A ridiculous amount."

In March 2020, the Victorian Chief Health Officer and Commonwealth Health Minister were granted special powers to issue lockdowns, if necessary, to minimise the rate of transmission of COVID-19.

They have not enacted a lockdown in Victoria since October 2021.

"In the end justice will be served where it is needed. It's important to stand up for what is right," Ms Buhler said.

"I guess my message for Dan Andrews would be, I hope one day you'll have your day in court."

Since the start of the pandemic, 5,264 people in Victoria have lost their lives due to complications relating to COVID-19.


School bullies have weaponised a much-loved children’s book series to taunt and humiliate vulnerable students

Six months after social media users began turning the popular Little Miss and Mr Men book characters into fun memes, bullies have hijacked the trend for sinister purposes.

Dozens of TikTok accounts — each targeting a different school — have popped up, posting cruel versions of the memes, mocking individual students, before flashing an identifiable photo of their target.

The anonymous accounts, apparently created by students, use phrases such as “Little Miss Hated By Most”, “Little Miss Racist”, and “Little Miss Wears No Bra”, to denigrate their schoolmates.

Students in Victoria are joining in, including those at Sunbury College, Berwick College and Fountain Gate Secondary College.

Some students are using the viral trend to compliment their friends, with posts about Little Miss Perfect, Little Miss Best Style and Little Miss Really Kind Girl Who Deserves Better.

Others are derogatory, including Little Miss Thinks She’s Black, Doesn’t realise no one likes her, Fakes her pregnancies, Anorexic, Fat and Self Harm.

In one clip, Sunbury College students pose in front of their own Little Miss monikers flashing above their head, settling on the one that best suits them. Descriptions include Doormat, Banned on Uber, Attachment issues, Bad taste in men, Childhood trauma, Hits curbs and Avoiding my problems.

There are even male accounts such as “Little Mr Can’t get any Girls”.

In one post there are signs saying “Little Miss Self Harm” and the caption “@horrible little miss accounts, do you realise what your (sic) doing?”

One post said “my heart goes out to the people who get called ugly on the little miss school accounts.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said Victorian schools “take strong action in relation to incidents of bullying, with disciplinary action for the perpetrators and full support for impacted students”.

“Social media providers have a critical role to play in preventing the publication of content that promotes bullying - and we are continuing to raise this issue with the platforms directly,” he said.

The online trolling trend can be revealed as new data shows cyberbullying reports are up 95 per cent for the first six months of this year. The figures, from the eSafety Commision, show 948 people reported being bullied online in the first half of 2022 compared to 485 in the first half of 2021. The data also reveals 1 in 5 children experience cyberbullying.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said she was aware of the Little Miss material and similar variations.

“Where once bullying stopped at the school gate, through technology it now follows children home and into their bedrooms, sometimes at all hours of the night,” she said.

“Content that demeans, belittles or objectifies anyone, particularly children, is never okay… young people may not realise how cruel, isolating and damaging this kind of online bullying content can be.”

Child psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien said the public nature of the Little Miss memes was a “lot more serious” than other types of bullying because “humiliation and ridicule are really powerful things”.

“The feeling of humiliation, there are not many things that compare to that,” she said.

Dr O’Brien said when teenagers felt they were being laughed at, they catastrophise the experience, often believing they could never recover.

“Humiliation has the power to make kids want to withdraw, hide and feel very anxious,” she said.

The resulting isolation can also increase the risk of suicide, she said.

Social Media expert Molly Speechley said while some oversight and restriction was appropriate, parents should focus on educating their children, and encouraging communication within the family.

“Checking behaviours can erode trust between parents and children… and may make teens less likely to come to parents when they do have an issue they cannot solve on their own,” she said.


The plague of the green elephants

Viv Forbes

Legend says that if you displeased the King of Siam, he would give you a white elephant. These rare and protected elephants were incredibly expensive to keep. So a ‘White Elephant’ came to mean a possession that is useless, troublesome, expensive to maintain, and difficult to dispose of – like a Sacred Cow, but much bigger.

Today the deluded rulers of the Western world are gifting us and future generations with plagues of Green Elephants – useless, expensive, and protected green rubbish.

The biggest green elephants in Australia are the five desalination plants built hurriedly around the same time climate catastrophist Tim Flannery forecast that burning hydrocarbons would create perpetual drought.

Climate botherers forgot about La Niña, with its cycles of rain and floods for Australia. These complex and expensive de-sal plants have largely sat idle.

The sun powers the greatest desalination plant on earth, all for free. If we had spent all that desalination money on dams we could have moderated La Niña flood damage, insulated against El Niño droughts, and provided naturally desalinated water for many towns and industries.

Australia was also conned into a war on hydrocarbons by American climate catastrophist, Al Gore, and his animated cartoon. This generated another epidemic of Green Elephants – solar panels, wind turbines, and spiderwebs of power lines that squander capital, uglify our landscapes, and destroy grasslands, forests, and bird life, as well as dismantling our once-cheap and reliable electricity supply. Future generations will be faced with the removal and disposal of these Green Monuments to Stupidity.

Another Green Elephant is being suckled in the Snowy Mountains – Snowy 2 Pumped Hydro. Its plant and transmission lines will cost $10 billion. More huge batteries are required to ‘solve’ the chronic intermittency of wind/solar energy.

More Green Elephants are being planned by hydrogen speculators. These net consumers of energy will guzzle huge quantities of fresh water to produce a dangerous explosive gas that cannot be used by motorists or industry without much research and new infrastructure. Some even dream of exporting our precious fresh water via hydrogen (nine tonnes of water for every tonne of hydrogen).

Perhaps the world’s biggest Green Elephant is being bred in Australia’s Northern Territory. This green folly would connect the world’s biggest collection of solar ‘farms’, wind turbines, and batteries to Singapore via the world’s longest under-sea extension cord across a deep submarine trench that is subject to many earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

These disastrous Green adventures are driven by the UN Billionaires’ club and promoted endlessly by government media and education bureaucracies, and vocal vested interests.

This plague of Green Elephants will destroy our industries, our farms, and our access to cheap reliable fuels and electricity.

It is time for a Green Elephant Hunt


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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