CRISIS: Why a Mackay pensioner is being forced to leave town
BOB Mulder has called Mackay home his whole life, but at age 66, he is being forced to leave town.
The cost of insurance in the region has blown out so much, this pensioner can no longer afford to live here.
Mr Mulder said the tipping point came when he received his renewal notice for his South Mackay home in January.
The premium for his house and contents insurance had soared from $2966 in January 2018, to $4098 in 2019 - this was even after he removed his contents cover.
Asked if he was sad to leave his life in Mackay behind, Mr Mulder struggled to fight back the tears.
"I've lived here my whole life, but I've got to get out of here - it's killing me," he said.
Mr Mulder has struggled to pay his insurance since 2013, after his mother died.
He had been a carer for his mother for years and with both their pensions they were able to keep on top of their household expenses.
"The month before Mum passed away, we got the insurance renewal notice and it went from $170 per month to $463," Mr Mulder said.
After his mother died, he switched insurance companies. But he said his premiums had been increasing since 2013 without any explanation from his insurer.
"They tell you nothing, they won't tell you why. They just say 'it's just the market'," Mr Mulder said.
"A lot of insurance companies will not insure you in Mackay. As soon as you tell them you're in 4740, they don't want to know about you."
After he sells his house, he plans to move somewhere between Maryborough and Gympie.
But in order to afford the move, for the past few years Mr Mulder has been forced to scrimp and save wherever he can by surviving on only the basics.
"I just live on some veggies and mince and try to catch a fish every now and then," he said.
"I haven't had a steak in a long time."
Mr Mulder, who has represented Australia three times in competitive shooting, can no longer afford to participate in his favourite hobby.
"I have to move. I cannot live here and expect any sort of good life or anything," he said.
"I don't go out, I don't socialise.
"I'm trying to save money so I can move. To save money, you've got to go without because the pension doesn't cover it."
This week Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Dawson MP George Christensen kicked off two days of insurance forums and meetings in Mackay, Whitsunday and Townsville to hear first-hand the issues being faced by local residents.
About 80 people, including Mr Mulder, attended the Mackay forum on Thursday.
Mr Christensen said Mr Mulder's experience was not an isolated case.
"This issue is now at crisis point," he said.
"At the Townsville forum, there was one insurance broker who said there was at least a dozen properties he couldn't insure at all."
Mr Dawson and Mr Sukkar met with insurance company bosses in Townsville on Friday to discuss measures to reduce the skyrocketing cost of premiums.
While the details of the meeting were confidential, Mr Christensen said solutions to bring down costs were being considered.
"I'm obviously going to be raising these issues with the National Party and the prime minister directly," he said.
"I have been banging on about this issue for the better part of eight years, I had almost lost hope that something could be done.
"But now I see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said the community needed real action on insurance premiums from the Federal Government.
She said a roundtable convened by Queensland Treasurer Jackie Trad after Townsville's severe monsoon event highlighted the Federal Government was "sitting on its hands".
"Jackie Trad wrote to Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about the insurance issues identified at the roundtable and the views expressed on the management and extraordinary cost of premiums," Mrs Gilbert said.
"After nine months, there's still no response from Mr Frydenberg, not one word."
Mr Christensen has called on the State Government to take action on insurance stamp duty by abolishing it or reducing it from a percentage to a flat fee.
This was a key recommendation of the ACCC's Northern Australia insurance inquiry's interim report, handed down in December 2018.