Singapore’s power firm faces class action over bushfires

February 15, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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ABC News

A class action has been issued against a private electricity company in the wake of Victoria’s deadly bushfires. The Age newspaper today reports Slidders Lawyers is launching the class action against Singapore-based firm SP Ausnet, which is responsible for maintaining most of the power lines in eastern Victoria.

It is believed the case centres on a fallen power line in Kilmore East that may have started the Kinglake fire, which killed 100 people.

The Age also reports the Phoenix task force has removed a length of the fallen power line and a pole as evidence.The lawsuit is expected to cover thousands of farmers, small business owners, tourist operators and residents who lost their homes.

The action will cover this year’s fires, as well as blazes in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

However, The Age reports the utility company’s liability will be capped at $100 million, under a deal struck by the Kennett government when state firms were privatised in 1995.

Slidders Lawyers has called on people affected by the fires to detail their losses on the firm’s website, saying they may be entitled to compensation.

It is believed other law firms are also considering class actions.

‘Residents saw sparks’

Meanwhile, the Federal Member for McEwan, Fran Bailey, says local authorities have told her a fallen powerline was creating sparks last Saturday.

Ms Bailey, who represents some of the areas worst affected by bushfires in Victoria, has told ABC1’s Insiders program regional power networks need to be upgraded.

“The local CFA [Country Fire Authority] told me on that Saturday, with those very high winds, one of the lines had broken and was whipping against the ground and sparked,” she said.

“Whether or not that is the cause of that terrible fire that actually took out Kinglake and maybe Marysville, the investigations will prove that, but we’ve got to do better.”

Louisa Graham from SP Ausnet says the firm will assist the relevant authorities with their inquiries.