The papers are reporting that thousands of householders are finding themselves uninsured after the floods, and that Deputy Prime Minister Swan and Assistant Treasurer Shorten are gunning for the insurance companies. That should be interesting. The politicians in the red corner and the money men in the blue. Ding, ding. Snore.
No insurance, no payout, the insurers are saying. "If people do not purchase flood cover insurance, they will not be covered," an Insurance Council of Australia spokesman sniffed, somewhat self-evidently.
Unfortunately for those who might have thought they were reasonably covered, the issue is not black and white. Let's look at QBE's cover, for example. QBE is the quintessential Queensland insurance company - if there is a quintessential Queensland insurance company - formed in Townsville in the nineteenth century by renowned early businessmen Burns and Philp of Burns Philp fame. (Philp was twice Premier of Queensland, Burns a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales and founder/benefactor of Burnside Presbyterian Homes for Children. Impeccable credentials both and indubitably gentlemen you would have no hesitation in having to afternoon tea in the parlour.)
On QBE's website landing page for 'home insurance' we read:
Your house is probably your biggest single investment. And, more importantly, it’s home to you and your family. So you'll want to feel reassured that the building and its contents are adequately protected against unforseen events. QBE is committed to providing homeowners with peace of mind.
From a company formed in stormy Queensland, that is certainly a heartwarming sentiment, sir. Naturally, you would expect these philanthropic early Queenslanders to have an ingrained knowledge of what dangers may befall native householders, no matter how rarely. After all, they are insurers and instinctively cautious. Yet perhaps that glaring error 'unforseen' was not a mistake after all. ('Oh, THAT unforeseen!') Let's examine the detail, if you can examine a detail. They make it difficult by hiding them somewhere in the back of the website and you have to click about like a cicada with attention deficit disorder to find it, and even then it is written ambiguously:
Building insurance covers the structure of your home against fire, storm, earthquake and other defined events.
That's QBE being 'committed to providing you with peace of mind', because that sure was a hell of a storm, and after the storm came the flood, and the flood is what did the damage.
Did someone say flood? And who is that whistling and gazing at the sky. Why, it's Mr Q. B. E. Insurance. 'Well, I'll just be off to lunch,' he mutters and exits the building, while we delve deeper into the website. Now we have left the 'home insurance' landing page and are scrolling down the Frequently Asked Questions, known in the trade as FAQs (they are clever in the trade):
Q. Am I covered for flooding?
A. You are covered for flash flood but not river flood.
Now, even though it is a hot day, a cold sensation is slowly crawling up your spine.
For more information, refer to your Product Disclosure Statement and Policy Wording.
The odd thing is, the only ones who need to refer to them are those whose PDS and Policy Wording documents are buried in their houses under eight feet of river flood silt.