Bill's Speeches






SYDNEY, 12 JUNE 2013







Someone wise once said if you’re careful enough nothing good or bad will ever happen to you.


And I think this a good way to think about risk and how we manage it.


I myself am an eternal optimist – if nothing else because it’s not much use being anything but optimistic.


But we all know in this room that risk is a constant in our lives.


We’re gifted with long lives. But with that gift comes, what the poet Robert Frost called the ‘shafts of fate’. These indeed make us perhaps more human but also require us to be resilient.


I know and you know that disasters and risk doesn’t just come in the form of terrible floods and catastrophic bushfires.


It can come from something as mundane and tragic as a sporting injury or a young man jumping off a pier into shallow water and forever having their life changed.


We know that risk can come in the form of a dear parent who all of a sudden takes a fall in their mid-seventies.


This is why I have been such a passionate advocate of a national disability insurance scheme and a national injury insurance scheme.


Traumatic injury or profound and severe disability is a fact of life. What we in a civilised society need to do is not let that define a person’s life.


We know that there can be a cruel lottery in life. Diving head first into shallow water, losing control of your car in a micro second or having a beautiful baby who at 12 months does not develop in the way in which you’d hope. It doesn’t change the amount of love that you feel but it certainly changes some of the challenges.


I believe we shouldn’t allow these shafts of fate to be a one way street into charity and second class citizenship.


A national disability insurance scheme – DisabilityCare Australia –which I believe ranks equal first amongst the Government’s proudest achievements – cannot eliminate impairment but it can go a long way to soothe the midnight anxieties of aging carers who wonder who will love their adult child in the same manner that they have.


I think that our national disability insurance scheme confers a collective responsibility on every Australian to support those most in need, with the promise that if those shafts of fate should occur in life, that in fact society and community will be alongside you.


In creating DisabilityCare, I believe we are challenging the last great civil rights puzzle in Australia.


I know that there are people in this room today that have been advocates of the long overdue reform; making disability a matter for the national political stage.


And I’d ask you, when you’re debating the merits of the next election, consider that is was a Labor government led by Prime Minister Gillard that has championed a national disability insurance scheme which will make our nation the envy of the world.


But today is not just about national disability insurance, it’s about other steps the Government is taking to help Australians manage risk.


I thank Joan Fitzpatrick for all of her work and her committee’s work.


Innovations such as Know Risk can assist Australians in managing risk.


The role of insurance


We are, as Dorothea Mackellar put it, we are a land of both drought and flooding rains. The eternal beauty and the terror of Australia is something we have all been reminded of in recent years.


We came together as a nation during the terrible Queensland floods of 2011.


And I think the articulation of our desire as a nation to help Queenslanders was in large part motivated by the stoicism and the strength of Premier Anna Bligh.


I know we’ve all had reason to pause and think of Anna in the past week and I know we will all recall her leadership during that difficult period for the nation.


It was through the flood levy, we have as a nation shouldered the financial burden of helping those communities in Queensland and Victoria rebuild and recover.


I think the Queensland floods also identified some significant problems with underinsurance in Australia which we have addressed as a Government.


In particular:


o   We’ve committed $100 million to the National Insurance Affordability Initiative which will make investments to reduce flood risk and drive down premiums in Sydney’s Hawkesbury River plain and in Roma and Ipswich in Queensland;


o   We are creating a National Flood Risk Information Portal – to give Australian businesses and communities access to flood risk information to protect their homes;


o   We’ve developed for the first time a standard definition of ‘flood’ and a key facts sheet- to assist consumers and households in understanding their insurance risks;


o   We’ve created a National Financial Literacy Strategy – to create opportunities for Australians of all ages to learn about money through schools; further education; in the workplace; in the community; and independently; and


o   The Government has launched a consumer website called ‘MoneySmart’ – conceptually similar to ‘Know Risk’, a central reference point for consumers in understanding money and getting guidance about how to make good money choices.


As a result of our reforms, flood insurance coverage has increase from three per cent to 83 per cent across the nation.


However there is an ongoing task.


I am particularly concerned about research that shows a significant link between Australians on lower incomes and rates of underinsurance and non-insurance.


It is these households that, in the face of an unforeseen loss, will find it most difficult to recover.


The Know Risk initiative


So I’m very pleased to launch this initiative.


I’m not going to go so far as to suggest this initiative makes insurance sexy – but it does make it much easier to understand.


Know Risk is a good idea because it empowers individual consumers with information, allowing them to make better decisions about how they manage the risks in their lives and advance the communities in which they live.


It provides the tools consumers need – literally in the palm of their hand – through things like the Insurance Tracker phone app.


I want to congratulate the Institute for Know Risk, and thank you for your ongoing efforts to better equip Australians and New Zealanders with the information that we need to take greater control of our life, so that when those shafts of fate occur we’re much more resilient; to go forward, to learn, to benefit.


I thank you.