How I lost sympathy for (some) bushfire victims

The Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 were, in terms of lives lost, the worst fires in Victoria’s history. In Kilmore East, 118 people died and over 1,200 houses were lost. Earlier this year, a group of around 10,000 people affected by the fires launched a massive class action against power company SP Ausnet, based on allegations that faulty cables (due to poor maintenance processes) triggered the bushfires. SP Ausnet denies that claim and is fighting it in court.

My gripe is in this article. It discusses how SP Ausnet entered private property (which is perfectly legal in some circumstances) to conduct some tests that they believed would exonerate them. It seems that by accident or design, entering private property for that purpose was illegal. The response of the plaintiffs is to try and have that evidence excluded from the case on the grounds that it was obtained illegally.

In my mind, this act completely removes the moral high ground that the plaintiffs have. They are no longer victims using the civil court system in a way it should be used, i.e. to ensure that perpetrators of criminal negligence are caught and punished. Instead they are using the civil court system the way we mock the Americans for – just to squeeze a major payout from someone out of some misplaced sense of entitlement.

  • If the evidence that SP Ausnet gathered proves that they were not negligent, then what right do the plaintiffs have to pursue the case and get a payout? It’s nothing short of greed.
  • If the evidence that SP Ausnet gathered does not disprove negligence, then the courts will figure that out and ensure that SP Ausnet is punished appropriately.

This kind of court trickery is very disappointing. The plaintiffs should be seeking truth, not a deep-pocketed scapegoat.