Australia — Victims of the 2003 Canberra bushfires have welcomed the federal government’s tough line with insurers over the Victorian fires.
The Canberra bushfire victims’ support group say underinsurance hampered rebuilding efforts after the disaster which six years ago destroyed almost 500 homes, killed four people and left a damages bill estimated at $500 million,
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told insurance company’s to resolve claims by bushfire and Queensland flood victims “promptly and compassionately”.
On Wednesday, Mr Rudd urged anyone who had problems with insurers to contact their local MP, who would then pass the information on to Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen.
The hard line has been welcomed by the Phoenix Association, set up to help victims of Canberra’s bushfires.
Association spokesman Richard Arthur said underinsurance, up to $300,000 in some cases, was a major problems for many victims of the Canberra bushfires.
Only two of five rebuilt their homes, while others were forced to take a second mortgage to pay for their new homes, he said.
Of Mr Rudd’s comments, Mr Arthur said, “I think it is a very positive, encouraging development.
“The experience with the Canberra insurance was patchy.
“Some were very, very good, some were very slow and difficult, and some were encouraging people to take the payout quickly when it might have been better to have thought about it.
“I know of one family, a husband and wife, who lived for a year in a caravan on their daughter’s front lawn, because they couldn’t get an agreement out of an insurance company about a partially destroyed house.”
Mr Arthur also supported Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull’s idea for a special commissioner of disaster insurance, to oversee the handling of claims.