Treasurer Wayne Swan, as Acting Prime Minister, began his press conference today by acknowledging Australians who have been hit by savage, widespread flooding.
Then he started talking about how he was going to help ordinary Australians by shaking up bits of the financial system, and it was at that precise point that Wayne Swan lost about 99 per cent of banking customers.
Floods they could understand, even if they were high and dry; covered bonds and RMBS funding were outside their usual ATM transactions.
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Wayne Swan has a problem.
The banks think he’s a pushover. Several hundred thousand home-owners agree.
Now that the ANZ has joined the Commbank in defying public opinion and overshooting the Reserve Bank’s official interest rate increase, the federal treasurer finds himself in familiar territory. He’s really, really angry.
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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.
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Loathe as I am to use a dirty four letter word a nice family-minded website, here goes ...
To many observers our major banks appear to be engaged in a kind of cruel sport. The rules are obscure but it seems to involve repeated, heavy crash tackles on ordinary people – people with savings accounts, credit cards, home loans, that type of thing. Also kids, debts, bills and other worries. They’re commonly known as bank customers.
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There’s an old joke about what the difference is between a dead kangaroo on the road and a dead banker. There are skid marks in front of the kangaroo.
This week I am starting to wonder or not this is really a joke or the results from an experiment actually conducted.
If the last few days have brought any good news at all, they have at least confirmed Australians’ long-held suspicion that bankers are an evil clan of blood-sucking parasites with the social conscience of Genghis Khan.
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A bold prediction for Melbourne Cup Day - interest rates may or may not go up today. A slightly bolder prediction is that the next bank which argues it has to increase its standard variable home loan rate, without any corresponding increase in the Reserve Bank’s official cash rate, will face a backlash of unprecedented scale. Equally, the next banker who pops his head up to say that public anger over fees and charges is a media beat-up will have his head bitten off.
There are about 20 billion reasons why Australia’s big four banks have run out of goodwill. Australians are generally a pretty level-headed lot and people understand the need to have a strong banking sector.
They’re grateful that the banks are run prudently and conservatively. They know what has happened in other western economies over the past couple of years, where the job has fallen to the taxpayers to bail out less cautious financial institutions. They also know that a strong banking sector, which makes a legitimate profit, adds to our collective long-term wealth through the shares that are held in our superannuation funds.
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Home ownership is central to the great Australian dream. A home is not only a means of shelter, but the crucible from which personal development, family relations and community bonds spring forth. For many Australians, it is a tangible way in which they can share in the wealth of the nation.
A decade ago, social researcher, Jeanne Strachan, reflected on an emerging concern about housing: “Young couples today are the first generation since the war to face the reality that they often can’t obtain, even with two full-time workers in the house, what their own parents saw as a fair and reasonable reward for their hard work.”
Strachan observed a growing sense of pessimism about home ownership: “Many young couples have an ingrained belief that it is not ‘right’ to raise children in a rented home. They make a very strong emotional link between the goals of parenthood and home ownership. They recognise that before the birth of their first child they will bath have to work to fulfil their home ownership dream.”
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So banking is like bananas. And facing a storm like the tragic one in Queensland a few years back that hit banana growers hard. Or so says the following Westpac video.
Some people think it was silly. Condescending, even. Maybe they think a disaster caused by banks isn’t the same as one caused by nature.
Me, I don’t think it’s silly. Like Forrest Gump said, life is like a box of chocolates. Except now it’s like a banana smoothie.
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No pay rise and no relief on the mortgage. It hasn’t been a banner day for Kevin Rudd’s working families. But that’s the price of prudence.
The Reserve Bank’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged at 3 per cent was no real surprise. Not much has changed since the nine board members’ last met in June, certainly nothing to convince them that the time was right for a little extra economic stimulation.
The Fair Pay Commission’s decision to deny Australia’s 1.3 million battlers a pay rise was a little more unexpected. The ACTU argued strongly for another $21-a-week hike to the minimum wage.
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If you’re searching for your first home you’d better find one this week, and you’d better have a healthy deposit, and you’d better hope your job’s secure, and you’d better pick the right suburb and don’t think about relying on the economic downturn to help you out.
No pressure but the Commonwealth Bank and BIS Shrapnel have in the past couple of days butted into the dreams of thousands of Australians and promptly turned them into a nightmare.
Contrary to all dining table predictions BIS Shrapnel today said house prices will go up 20 per cent over the next three years. This as CBA raised its fixed rate, after last week being the first to break ranks and lift its variable rate. Expect the rest of the banks to follow at a respectable distance, as soon as Wayne Swan stops holding press conferences to talk about team work and heavy lifting.
So prices are going up, rates are going up – and you can’t even get the friendly guy from the bank to take your call. And guess what, it’s your fault.
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