Australia's insurers are continuing to tally the cost of this summer's floods and fires, with the insured losses now exceeding $550 million in Queensland alone.
So far some 53,711 claims have been lodged in Queensland for $553 million, the Insurance Council of Australia said.
NSW, which copped less of a deluge and had better flood protection in place in many towns, has seen about 8000 claims lodged for $20 million in losses, the council said.
Earlier this week, Brisbane-based Suncorp said floods in the two states would cost it between $200 million and $220 million in claims – taking up a large chunk of the $520 million the insurer had set as a provision for natural disaster claims for the current financial year. Suncorp's first-half claims were $147 million.
All up, general insurance companies have received more than 65,000 claims in three states where catastrophes have been declared by the industry this summer, with insurance losses "conservatively estimated" at $674 million, the council said in a statement.
“Flood mitigation in places such as Grafton (in NSW) has done its job and protected many communities," Rob Whelan, chief executive of the ICA, said. "Without mitigation, Grafton could easily have been as severely affected as Bundaberg.”
“This again highlights the importance of investing in physical mitigation measures, such as levees, dams, barrages and drainage work, where it is feasible to do so. A relatively small investment to build a levee around a mid-size town may be recouped many times over the life of the levee,” he said.
Losses may rise further. "Many parts of Australia have not yet reached the peak of their local disaster seasons, and more cyclones, floods and bushfires remain a strong possibility,” Mr Whelan said.
Fire damage also continues to rise even as fire crews battle blazes in Victoria and Tasmania, two states which remain tinder-dry with another month or so of summer left.
Bushfire claims in Tasmania now total 1900 for $89 million, the council said.
Insured losses from blazes in NSW, which has also been hit by bushfires particularly in the Coonabarabran region in the state's north west, total about $12 million for some 1500 claims.
Figures for Victoria's fire losses are not yet available because the insurance industry is yet to declare a catastrophe yet for that region.
Fire crews in the state are bracing for very high to severe fire danger on Saturday. The Harrietville blaze burning neat Mt Hotham remains out of control.
Separately, private health insurance premiums are to rise by an average of 5.6 per cent, which Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says will cost the average family $3.70 a week.
Describing the rise as a ‘‘modest price increase’’, Ms Plibersek said she did not expect it to force people to drop their private cover.
‘‘The average increase $3.70 a week, that’s about the cost of a cup of coffee,’’ she told reporters in Sydney on Friday, adding a single person could expect to pay about $1.70 a week more.
The price rises take effect in April.