Banks and insurers should “lift their socks” and show compassion to north Queenslanders affected by the floods, says Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.
- More than 13,000 insurance claims have been received for the region, with an approximate value of $165 million
- The nation’s banks stand ready to help farmers, including cattle farmers, the Australian Banking Association says
- AgForce says the flood area is more than the size of Victoria
Insurers had received 13,560 claims as of 10:00am on Sunday, with losses estimated at $165 million, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said.
The council said insurers had already paid more than $16 million in support and emergency accommodation to policyholders.
“The people of Townsville, the people in the north-west, are traumatised and they are doing it tough right now,” Ms Trad said.
“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.
“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 Trad called on banks and insurers to be “good corporate citizens”.
“As we’ve seen in the recent banking royal commission report, banks, insurance companies, financial lenders, mortgage brokers, they all need to lift their socks and start treating customers appropriately,” she said.
“There may be some definitional differences in terms of insurance policies, but right now at this moment in time we know that Australians are crying out for a higher standard of ethics and a higher standard of responsiveness from their financial institutions.
“It starts here in Queensland in the north and the north-west.”
Banks stand ready to help farmers
Australian Banking Association (ABA) chief executive Anna Bligh, a former Queensland premier, said in a statement that Australia’s 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 stand ready to help cattle farmers and others affected by these floods and other natural disasters through deferred loan repayments, waiving fees and other arrangements.
“Banks have dedicated hardship teams ready to assist, however it’s important that customers contact their bank directly to flag they are experiencing hardship.”
ICA chief executive officer Rob Whelan said in a statement he had held talks with Ms Trad about its catastrophe declaration, insurance claims and flood cover.
He said he also wished to assure LNP leader Deb Frecklington that insurers were doing their best to help all customers, whether or not they had purchased flood cover.
“I have explained that flood insurance cover is readily available to all householders and businesses in Townsville,” he said.
“This cover is risk rated, the same as in any other part of Australia.
“Customers who decided against purchasing flood cover, or chose to opt out, should still lodge a claim through their insurer or insurance broker — most policies include storm cover.”
Mr Whelan said where flood cover was not purchased it would “typically be tested by the insurer through an independent hydrology process”.
“This will determine if the inundation that caused the damage is to be classified as flood water or as storm water,” he said.
Mr Whelan said several insurance company chief executives had already visited Townsville to talk to customers, and he expected to visit this week to continue discussions with the state and local government representatives.
The ICA said it planned to hold two insurance forums in Townsville to provide claims guidance to household and commercial policyholders.
‘Devastating and immense’
Ms Trad said fodder drops to stranded cattle were also underway in north-west Queensland, describing the reconstruction effort ahead as “immense”.
Hundreds of thousands of cattle have been killed in the flood disaster, and those stranded are at risk of starvation.
“They are an incredibly important part of our state — the recovery and the reconstruction and the help that will be required in the north-west is just immense,” Ms Trad said.
“Seeing the loss of livestock, which in essence is a drop of their economic capability, is devastating.”
AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said there were hundreds of thousands of dead animals.
“We know that there are communities struggling to cope with that,” he said.
“How many animals we could have saved if that fodder had left earlier we will never know.
“Some of those animals have been standing in mud and on small outcrops for up to seven days.”
Mr Guerin said it had “never seen anything of this scale in the beef industry”.
“It is something like three times the size of Tasmania or more than the size of Victoria the area that has been flooded,” Mr Guerin said.
Ms Frecklington said it was time for the insurance companies to “ditch their tricky tactics and pay out the policies”.
“We’ve got livestock that are dying, in need of feed, and yet we’ve got a plane full of fodder sitting on the tarmac,” she said.
Rural Aid said it would distribute hay for flood-affected livestock across the region for as long as needed.
Spokesman Richard Forbes said about 1,500 bales would be delivered to a number of properties.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we get it distributed as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We’ll keep the trucks coming until the farming community tells us that they’re OK and those cattle are alright, but our main priority is to help the farmers and help those cattle.
“You can’t really describe what I’m hearing from farmers in terms of the devastation.
“I don’t think this area has seen anything like this … just devastating stuff — there are cattle out there that can still be saved.”
Search continues for man missing in floodwaters
Meanwhile, hope is fading in the search to find 35-year-old Justin Scott, missing in floodwaters near Ayr since Friday evening.
A major water and air search has been launched of the area, which is still affected by recent flooding.
Mr Scott’s family and local boaties joined water police, swift water rescue crews and two helicopters on Saturday.
There has been no sign of Mr Scott, as the search continues on Sunday.