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Collective disaster efforts are a stark contrast to insurance vultures

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Louisa L.

The massive and heroic efforts, and small kindnesses, from paid and volunteer workers, neighbours, family and complete strangers during the huge natural disasters across Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales have been justifiably well documented in the media.

It made this writer, no expert in any of it, but seeing and hearing first hand, close up, reflect a little.

The floods near the Queensland/NSW border, began on Thursday. By Sunday morning, in tiny Uki’s general store, residents quietly bought rubber gloves, scrubbing brushes and cleaning products to head up the road to devastated Murwillumbah, a situation replicated across the massive flood and cyclone affected areas. At a handwritten sign, “Dry clothes” beside neatly folded piles, a woman smiled as she took what she needed.

Fifty metres away, a group of roadworkers gathered for the next shift cutting, shovelling and bulldozing. To illustrate their task, just one back road, from the north to Kyogle, had hundreds of rockfalls, land slips and fallen trees. It was dangerous work, but by that Sunday morning the road was already cleared. Occasionally where a huge slip occurred, only one lane was open, but people could get through to their families, and essential supplies delivered. Multiply this by hundreds of roads over many thousands of square kilometres.

But on Monday morning, as workers in Lismore were using giant scoops to dump victims’ sad and stinking piles of belongings into trucks to stop the spread of disease, and thousands were scrubbing or hosing filthy floors and walls, insurance companies announced that victims were not to remove anything from homes before assessors arrived. 

Many of the poorest residents live in the low lying, normally sweltering central Lismore area, near local small to medium businesses. Few residents or businesses had insurance, because it costs up to five thousand dollars a month, $60,000 a year. To get reasonably priced flood insurance, you need to live where it doesn’t flood. South and north Lismore residents, which also went under were in a similar boat, lacking a paddle.

As the emergency unfolded on Friday, local radio announced Victoria’s Kinglake residents were finally receiving compensation, eight years after bushfires destroyed their homes. The announcement provided no comfort in this new disaster zone.

No wonder Malcolm Turnbull copped it from Lismore residents with his promise of low interest loans. You can pay taxes all your life, one man said, and get nothing from government when you need it.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian was equally unconvincing, saying if the insurance companies didn’t act fairly, “They’ll have me to answer to.” Maybe they’ll be quaking in their boots. More likely it will be business as usual from these vulture corporations who trade in human fear and misery and, as is the imperialist imperative, put profits first.


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