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Easter 2021 – Floods, COVID-19, JobKeeper ends and another lockdown in Greater Brisbane area

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Attwood Marshall Lawyers Legal Practice Director, Jeff Garrett, provides an update in relation to the latest developments concerning the COVID lockdown in the Greater Brisbane area, the clean-up after the Queensland and New South Wales’ floods, and the end of JobKeeper.

Introduction

Easter 2021 was expected to be a much brighter affair for Australia this year, particularly in flood stricken Northern New South Wales and Queensland. It was almost 12 months to the day that there was a COVID-19 lockdown in Queensland with the borders slammed shut on Wednesday 25th March 2020. During this time, Queensland subsequently recorded over 300 new cases in a day and went into complete lockdown over the Easter break. 2021 was supposed to be a return to the usual family holidays in Northern NSW (including Byron Bay), the Gold Coast, and visits to the Queensland capital, Brisbane. The recent floods seemed to have moved aside for beautiful warm sunny weather in anticipation of Easter and the school holidays. The spectre of another COVID lockdown for the Greater Brisbane area has thrown a spanner in the works and things are not looking very bright for the usual Easter holidays.

COVID Update

A 3-day lockdown has been ordered by the Queensland Government for the Greater Brisbane area which includes Brisbane, Logan City, Ipswich, Redlands (including the Moreton Bay region).  The 72-hour Greater Brisbane shutdown is scheduled to end at 5.00pm on Thursday 1st April, but health authorities may extend that period after a formal review late on Wednesday.  There have also been positive cases detected on the Gold Coast, Hervey Bay, Gladstone and Byron Bay in Northern NSW. Byron Bay was set to host the popular Bluesfest music event from Thursday this week, however it has now been announced that this will be cancelled.  

For Queenslanders, a state-wide order has been issued for people to wear masks in all public places including shopping centres, public transport and other indoor areas.  Masks must also be worn in outdoor areas where you are unable to effectively practice social distancing

Residents of the Greater Brisbane area must only leave home for essential purposes and anyone who is able to work from home must do so. The shutdown came into effect at 5.00 pm on Monday 29th March 2021.

As at the time of publishing this newsletter at 12.30pm on Wednesday 31st March 2021, there have been 2 new locally-acquired cases overnight, making a total of 10 new cases in Queensland over the last 24 hours. There has also been one new case in Byron Bay overnight.  As a result of the locally acquired case in NSW, Byron, Ballina, Tweed and Lismore Shires are on high-alert and are subject to some restrictions. These developments are another cruel twist in the rollercoaster ride of the COVID-19 outbreak and have dashed many hopes for the expected increase in Easter travel plans from interstate visitors, and locally for Queenslanders. It has also thrown interstate travel into chaos with many bookings for Queensland cancelled and directives from other Australian states for their residents not to travel to the Greater Brisbane area or to Queensland if this can be avoided.

The genesis of the outbreak appears to have stemmed from a nurse who had contact with an infected doctor who worked on the same COVID treatment ward at the PA Hospital in Brisbane. Both the nurse and the doctor were yet to be vaccinated.  The Queensland Government will no doubt face some difficult questions in relation to how these frontline health workers in the COVID treatment ward of the PA Hospital could continue to work without being vaccinated. It raises the issue of a severe impact upon the Queensland economy resulting from the negligence of the State Government. There are various class actions on foot in Victoria concerning similar events and it will be interesting to see whether business owners take further action for damages resulting from the lockdown.

Queensland and New South Wales Floods

Many locations across South-East Queensland and Central and Northern New South Wales experienced severe flooding in recent times. The total damage bill is yet to be fully calculated due to the wait for flood waters to subside in many areas.

Insurance companies have already been very active in their press releases bemoaning the fact that there will be a significant number of claims made at great cost. Many of the victims of the flooding will unfortunately not be covered by their insurance policies that they hold.  Many insurance companies have exclusions in the fine print of their policies which exclude claims based on flooding, but not if the damage is caused by storm activity.  It becomes a legal dispute concerning the cause of the damage to people’s homes and businesses, and the outcome is often determined by the definition of these events in the policy wording.

Despite the fact that Federal and State politicians have called upon insurance companies to be generous and honour the insurance policies held by the people affected by the floods, insurance companies are renowned for finding any reason to deny a claim and it is expected that they will continue to conduct themselves in this fashion.

Following on from the bushfire disasters experienced this summer, the severe flooding and 100-year rain event would appear to be further evidence of the dramatic impact that climate change is having upon Australia’s extreme weather events.

Although the Federal Coalition Government has more recently shown a softening of its position in relation to dealing with climate change generally, the ongoing political impasse which has torn the Coalition Government apart in the last 8 years appears to be set to continue.  Likewise, the Labour Party has its own internal divisions in relation to emissions targets and the shutting down of coal-fired power stations and the mining of fossil fuels. The ongoing inaction in relation to climate change has already fuelled environmental class actions being taken against Governments and if there is no action taken in the near future, it is likely that the number of class actions will increase dramatically

It is expected that all areas of business, including insurance companies and other State and Local Governments will join in these actions for damages, given the huge amounts of losses that are being suffered across the community in these extreme weather events.

The end of JobKeeper

The JobKeeper stimulus payments have now ended, and businesses are expected to receive their last monthly payment from the Government in the first week of April. There is fear that due to the ongoing instability of the economy and COVID lockdowns, the loss of the JobKeeper payments will result in a large increase in people losing their jobs over the course of the next 6-8 weeks.

Although the overall Australian economy is showing strong signs of recovery, led by a very hot property market, the fear is that this in part has been fuelled by the huge stimulus payments made by the Government over the past 12 months and that once this ceases, the cracks will appear.

Insolvency lawyers and accountants have predicted that there will be a tsunami of personal bankruptcies and company liquidations after the stimulus payments end. It remains to be seen whether these predictions are correct and how the economy progresses over the course of the next June quarter.

Conclusion

The 2021 Easter period may certainly be a more sober affair given the significant impact of the COVID lockdown in the Greater Brisbane area, the end of the JobKeeper payments and the substantial losses and damage inflicted by the floods in Queensland and New South Wales. It would appear that the general feeling that 2020 was a year to forget, and that 2021 will be a vast improvement may be challenged by the recent events.

Lets all hope that this is not so, and that the current outbreak is brought under control as quickly as possible without further damage to the economy, and without further spread of COVID-19. 

How can Attwood Marshall Lawyers help?

Attwood Marshall Lawyers’ fundamental intent is to help people and change their lives for the better. We are one of the few law firms to offer specialist legal services across all areas of law. We handle most forms of litigation including class actions, insurance claims, claims against banks and financial planners, environmental litigation against large companies and governments, as well as being able to provide expert advice around bankruptcy and insolvency law.

If there is anything urgent that you need assistance with, we will be open over the Easter period, excluding Good Friday and Easter Monday. We have a 24/7 phone line that you can call, leave a message, and someone will get back to you, even on a public holiday. 

There aren’t many law firms on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane that offer that service, but we understand that sometimes things happen urgently and unexpectedly. 

Our Robina Town Centre office is also open Thursday night until 9pm and Saturday morning from 9am-12noon for your convenience. You can make an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers at any time by calling 1800 621 071 or by clicking here and booking via our self-service booking app. If you are faced with any of the issues discussed in this article,  know that there is still someone there to help you.

If you are facing a dispute with your insurance provider, or need to discuss a commercial litigation matter, you can contact Department Manager, Amanda Heather, directly on 07 5506 8245, mobile 0425 260 837 or email aheather@attwoodmarshall.com.au 

Click here to stay up to date with the latest Queensland Health updates
Click here to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 New South Wales Health updates

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