Public wants intervention on interest rate hikes
Although his line of business was never clearly identified, it has been suggested by some scholars that Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserly grouch in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, was probably a banker or money lender.
Many current bank customers and mortgage holders would more than likely agree with this assessment in the wake of the wave of anger in the past week over interest rate rises and bank profits.
Bashing banks has long been a favourite Australian sport, especially when loan repayment pressures bite customers and the “Big Four” institutions reveal the billions they have made.
But the unexpected 25 basis points rate increase by the Reserve Bank on Melbourne Cup Day, followed by the Commonwealth Bank’s quick move to hike its rate by 45 points was more than most betting Australians were prepared to gamble on.
Calls for greater government regulation and more competition among banks echoed through many of the comments to online news sites.
Riding the wave of dissatisfaction, both the Government and Opposition jockeyed for pole position arguing they had the answers and that they would curb the banks’ greed, but commenters were not entirely convinced about how much they were willing or able to do.
Joe Khoo of Brisbane wrote to The Courier-Mail: “Nothing meaningful will come out of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s threat of ‘reforms’ or Opposition spokesman Joe Hockey’s feigned outrage with our Big Four banks. They are both out to score political points. In 12 months the furore would be all but forgotten. What Australia needs is increased bank competition by welcoming overseas banks to this country.”
Commenting on news.com.au, Gen1977 of Melbourne felt a sense of personal powerlessness and thought urging customers to switch banks was a futile exercise. “Changing banks is costly, time consuming and inconvenient. And who’s to say the bank you switch to won’t increase their rates more than the Reserve rates in future? Banks should be regulated by the Government and not be allowed to increase their rates at will.”
Paolo-Andrea of Queensland did not think Government action to reduce or eliminate exit fees would have much effect on the banks. “It’s all very well for the Government to stop banks from having an exit fee but my worry is that the four large banks will somehow claw back this ‘lost fee’ through either other existing or newly-created fees.”
Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ralph Norris only exacerbated the anger towards the banks when he declared his institution’s rate hike was part of dealing with commercial reality and that his job was not about being popular.
Sceptical of NSW responded on news.com.au: “Maybe, the criticism wouldn’t have come as such an outcry if they (the Commonwealth Bank) had not raised their rates by nearly twice as much as the RBA. Everybody knows that interest rates have to go up once in a while, and sometimes they even come down. But, let’s be honest, can he really whinge about how terrible the market is treating his bank if he can still post several-billion-dollar profits?”
Another commenter, Bebe, had a short and sharp retort to Ralph Norris shunning popularity: “You got that right. Destroying lives for pure greed certainly won’t make you popular.”
But Ado of Perth defended the banks’ pursuit of bigger profits, commenting to SBS Online: “Directors of companies, including the banks, are required by law to act in the best interests of the shareholders. I think that rather than spending our time and efforts to bash the banks for operating an effective business model, we could focus our efforts on educating/empowering Australian citizens to be less reliant on debt.”
The growing level of personal debt was mentioned by a number of other commenters as a source of concern and even frustration, as evidenced in a post by Michael Steane on Yahoo7: “I’m fed up with people who live beyond their means whining about paying interest. Don’t make yourself a slave to banks. Only buy what you can afford and develop some self-respect.”
Meanwhile, a story in The Courier-Mail reported retailers feared the latest interest rate hikes could hurt Christmas spending.
Nick of the Park of East Brisbane urged caution: “Yeah, the banks are bad guys. But be careful to side with the retailers. They are saying the banks are playing Scrooge and ruining Christmas. Just remember, the whole meaning of Christmas. The retailers just want your money - and in this case - your credit-card debt money.”
Perhaps the spectre of Ebenezer Scrooge is not just limited to the banks, but to wider society in Australia.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The AFL needs a special draw song. Feels weird having no club song at the end of #AFLSwansFreo. But what song?
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…