Class action should be settled out of court: Tully
IT is time for state government, Sunwater and Seqwater to do the right thing by flood victims and settle a billion dollar flood class action out of court.
That is the call from Cr Paul Tully on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 flood on behalf of 5000 flood victims in south-east Queensland.
The class action, commenced by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in 2014, is set to be heard in the NSW Supreme Court in 2017.
But Cr Tully said that the only real winners in any delay would be the lawyers, and that any appeal to the High Court could see flood victims waiting until 2021 for a resolution.
"It has been a long five years and a lot of people who weren't insured or who were under insured are still waiting for the court case to be finalised.
"I said at the time that it could take a number of years but now even if you had a hearing in 2017 you are not likely to get a decision before 2018 and it could go on appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal and then to the High Court of Australia by the losing party.
"It is the largest class action launched in Australia."
Cr Tully went to a time capsule ceremony on the weekend on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the flood in Goodna where pictures, poems and memorabilia were buried.
The time capsule is set to be opened in 2036 on the 25th anniversary of the flood.
"Even a bottle of wine that survived the flood was buried so it is going to be a fantastic bottle of wine in 20 years' time or very ordinary," Cr Tully grinned.
The residents involved in the time capsule project, of Hillsdon Ct, are all signed up for the class action.
"Every few months everyone in the class action gets an e-mail from Maurice Blackburn," Cr Tully said.
"We all got one at the end of December, but it is all grinding ahead so very slowly."
Cr Tully, who lost his family home in the 2011 floods and has signed up for the class action, has called on the state and Seqwater to honour their word given in 2012. He said that when the report of the Floods Commission of Inquiry was handed down, the government and opposition said they would act as model litigants in the event of a class action.
"Flood victims deserve a prompt settlement of their claims without the need for expensive courtroom litigation where the only real winners will be lawyers," he said.
"The battlers who lost everything in the flood don't care about self-serving claims of innocence by Seqwater or technical legal defences by their lawyers.
"All they want is a fair go with proper compensation so they can finally move on with their lives."
Royal Mail publican Andrew Café, of Goodna, is one of the thousands who signed up for the class action and is also hoping for a positive outcome for the sake of residents and the economy.
"I am looking forward to the result of the class action. It will be good for that to be resolved in the long term, just beccaue of the all the development that is going to occur in this area," Mr Café said.
"After (the flood of) 1974 it was pretty stagnant for a while."
Class actions principal at Maurice Blackburn, Rebecca Gilsenan, said that Maurice Blackburn would be exploring all avenues to achieve an early resolution for group members in the class action.
"The class action mechanism is the fairest and most efficient way for the thousands of people affected by this disaster to hold these large organisations accountable for their actions," Ms Gilsenan said.
"Without having an important enforcement mechanism such as class actions available in Australia, and without expert lawyers who know how to run and win these cases, it would be almost impossible for individuals to pursue defendants on their own.
"This case really highlights the importance of having the right legal structure to ensure appropriate access to justice not only for Queenslanders, but for all Australians."