Insurance companies have been urged to show compassion toward Queensland flood victims left devastated when record floodwaters inundated thousands of Townsville properties.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington called out insurers amid reports they were turning away residents and businesses affected by the flood.
Ms Trad on Sunday said she was told some by some flood affected residents that insurance assessments had been very “brash”.
She said she was informed that insurance decisions had been made “on the spot rather than allowing residents and households to actually compile the information and have a conversation with the insurance companies and claim assessors”.
Ms Trad said she will be asking the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) and insurance companies to meet her in Townsville on Friday morning to see directly the devastation.
“And also to get an understanding of where we can go to make that Townsville people and people in the north west aren’t being left behind.”
The Deputy Premier said the people of Townsville were traumatised and “they are doing it tough right now”.
“What they want from their insurance companies and what they want from their banks is sympathy and they want compassion and they want a responsive organisation that understands that they are going through a traumatised event,” she said.
“How many more natural disasters, how many more Queenslanders are going to be left without home and contents, having to rebuild their lives without the assistance of insurance companies when they have paid so much money?”
Ms Frecklington said many small businesses had been told their claims would likely be rejected over fine print which differentiates storm water from floodwater.
Ms Frecklington said it was time for the insurance companies to “ditch their tricky tactics and pay out the policies”.
“These hard-working family businesses have done the right thing, they’ve paid their premiums and now they’ve been devastated by this disaster,” she said.
“The insurance companies are already saying ‘we’re not going to pay out your premiums’.”
As well as lost belongings and damaged structures, mould has set into flood-affected homes as forecasters predict a heatwave will strike the same area this week.
The ICA says it will hold forums in coming weeks to help guide policyholders through the claims process.
ICA CEO Rob Whelan said he had held talks with Ms Trad about the ICA’s catastrophe declaration, insurance claims and flood cover.
“I have explained that flood insurance cover is readily available to all householders and businesses in Townsville,” he said.
“Customers who decided against purchasing flood cover, or chose to opt out, should still lodge a claim through their insurer or insurance broker.”
As of 10am on Sunday, insurers had received 13,560 claims, with losses estimated at $165 million.
The ICA said insurers had already paid more than $16 million in support and emergency accommodation to policyholders.
Australian Banking Association (ABA) chief executive Anna Bligh, a former Queensland premier, said in a statement that the banks stood ready to help farmers, including cattle farmers.
“After suffering through an extensive drought, many Queensland cattle farmers have now been cruelly devastated by these floods,” Ms Bligh said.
“Banks have dedicated hardship teams ready to assist, however it’s important that customers contact their bank directly to flag they are experiencing hardship.”