By now the world has surely heard of the terrible floods that have afflicted the Australian state of Queensland and Brazil in South America. It is remarkable of course that these events that have occurred almost simultaneously but almost an entire world apart have elicited such resoundingly different responses. Australia has, by and large, won the publicity war and has drawn on the great Australian tradition of helping out a mate when it comes to communities in need, the last tally of money donated towards the flood ‘victims’ is currently $100 million.
Even Oprah Winfrey, one of the most iconic figures of the twenty first century talk show mythology, who recently visited Australia on an all expenses paid tourism deal, apparently shed a tear for all of her Aussie ‘friends’ who have been dealt such a cruel blow. Make no mistake, in both countries there has been comparable losses of life per capita and this in itself is tragic, but where Australia has the infra structure and resources to deal with the huge effect on human health and property Brazil has a very different story.
But the Australian flood victims that have, by and large, been under the impression that the large insurance companies that are quite willing to send brokers to their front door and charge real amounts of money for insurance policies are waking up this morning and in ten of thousands of cases, realising that their insurance policy is not worth the paper it has been written on. Indeed many of these poor souls who have thought their situation to be bad, now realise that their entire lives may be shattered by the inability to retrieve any amount of costs from their insurance companies. While the insurers have had a conference to decide what constitutes ‘flood’ or ‘storm’ the future of many hang in the balance.
The insurance companies are merely saying that for most people added flood insurance was a personal responsibility and that the policies were written in ‘Black and white’.
The question is however, how many of us have ever got the time to read and comprehend every word of a contract that is written in difficult language and drafted by legal teams that are paid far more than the average ‘Joe’ could even dream of.
Australian Prime Minister Gillard is now said to be investigating these definitions given by the insurance companies, but I would suspect that she will come second place in a battle of words and regulation.
The fact is that corporations, time and time again have proven to be far more powerful than governments, who in most democracies are MEANT to be the elected representatives of the people and who are meant to speak on their behalf. You only have to revisit Australian Foreign Minister Rudd’s proposed 40% tax on mining companies. He was up until the point that he wished to make it a reality, the Prime Minister of Australia.
And while many in Queensland are this morning pondering their fates, I am left to ponder the question… since when has the voice of the people been so subsumed by corporations that it is better to rely on hand outs from your mates than to invest into something that is essentially as rotten as insurance companies that can change their definitions of ‘flood’ to their benefit as soon as a flood occurs?