Around this time last year, I wrote a post about the houses lost to fire here in Warrandyte, and the possible role SP Ausnet had played in those losses.
At the time, even I felt as if I was doing a bit of conspiracy theorizing. Today, however, I know I was spot on the money because it was just announced on the media that the third, Black Saturday compensation claim against SP Ausnet has been settled out of court. This particular compensation case referred to the township of Marysville [see photo to the left].
Apparently all three Black Saturday compensation cases concerned some kind of equipment failure. The equipment was/is owned by SP Ausnet, and the utilities company has denied all liability. BUT. Counting the three, separate compensation cases, the company has agreed to a total of $648 million dollars in out of court compensation payments.
At some point I expect to hear that the families involved in last year’s Warrandyte fire will also receive hush money from SP Ausnet.
To be honest, I consider that $648 million to be cheap. The survivors whose lives were smashed by the Black Saturday fires will receive approximately 60% compensation for their losses. 60%. Think about that. Where is the compensation for living the rest of your life with nightmares?
And what of the rest of us? If the worst bushfire in Victorian history was caused by equipment failure, and possible negligence, then what hope do we have that the same perfect storm of events will not happen again?
I’m not optimistic. Even people around Warrandyte have become complacent, and that is likely to get worse as the years go by. People forget, perhaps because it’s easier to live out here if you bury your head in the sand.
The only sign of optimism I can see is that the insurance companies that underwrite companies such as SP Ausnet will not be happy. They may demand an investment in safeguards that the victims themselves can never achieve.
I hope so, because with no legal liability recorded against them, SP Ausnet is under no legal obligation to lift its game. Think about that.
February 19th, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Hi Meeka, do you know if the report on last year’s fires is available yet?
February 19th, 2015 at 4:13 pm
Hi Michelle. No, I haven’t heard/seen anything yet. I suspect it’ll slide past as quietly as possible, especially if it finds SPAusnet guilty of negligence, again. Or perhaps there’ll just be a small notice somewhere about a settlement out of court. 😦
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February 19th, 2015 at 4:53 pm
I hope that’s not the case – I will do my best to follow this up – it’s important for people know what happened.
February 19th, 2015 at 8:11 pm
Put me top of your list if you do find anything out!
February 19th, 2015 at 8:45 pm
I will! 🙂
February 7th, 2015 at 9:19 am
It’s a weird world when a company can deny liability but pay $648m in compensation. Is SP Ausnet trying to convince us that they paid that money out of the generosity of their corporate heart (that’s assuming that they have anything I’ve a heart :(. ) My hope is that the people who have brought this action can now feel that they have done all they can to get redress; to settle down into a new life.
Good on you for writing about this Meeks.
February 7th, 2015 at 4:30 pm
Yes, it almost beggars belief doesn’t it? What does it say about a corporation that’s prepared to gamble almost 3/4 of billion dollars on the chance that being found guilty would cost them even more….
February 6th, 2015 at 7:11 pm
Because of their liability cover the Insurance Company(ies) will have to insist on some safeguards at the expense of AUSNET or they’re liable to cancel he insurance, Too bad it had to be after the sad events of Black Saturday.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
February 6th, 2015 at 10:27 pm
Yeah. I never thought I’d see the day when I look to insurance companies as saviours.
February 6th, 2015 at 4:45 pm
Deny liability but make out of court compensation payments… Yup. Mitigates risk of extent of further claims. And that won’t be their only cost, they’ll have thrown millions in legal fees at it also.
There is always going to be an element of error in any human enterprise but that’s different to negligence. The more incentives-imperatives, financial, moral, otherwise any provider has to act safely the better.
February 6th, 2015 at 10:32 pm
Absolutely, and in this case it looks as if market forces will do the job. I just hope something does do it. I feel almost nostalgic for the days when utilities were owned and run by the state.
February 6th, 2015 at 1:34 pm
The second to the last paragraph of your post is key. it’s time to put in place the safeguards that are needed and the way to achieve that is to make the money people (the insurance underwriters) see SAFETY as a profitable thing to do.
It’s sad but true, but the profit motive directs people, organizations and institutions to good or away from it. Let’s point them in the right direction.
Bravo on your post!
February 6th, 2015 at 4:05 pm
Thanks Candy. Part of me feels cheated that the law won’t judge this case, but I’m not one of the victims, and it’s their well being that really counts here. Nonetheless, I do hope self interest works to out advantage in this.
February 6th, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Just one word for that. Yikes!
February 6th, 2015 at 4:06 pm
Yeah, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?