Hear their capes flap in the wind. Admire the spandex stretched over their taut bodies. Breathe and lose yourself to their pheromone feast. Suits won’t woo Western Sydney. As the election nears, our pudgy political class is turning into superheroes.
They used to be lawyers, doctors, businessmen, academics, mindful of their every word, shoving paragraphs into sentences, knowing that they would be judged by the soundness of their logic. But now that they’re talking to simple voters, they do away with making sense, and focus on larger and bolder claims.
Their side is responsible for all the good that has come to this country, while the other slashes jobs, racks up debt, drowns refugees. Forget the power the people have vested in them: to make laws, manage budgets, oversee the civil service. Super politicians can do so much more: conjure growth out of thin air, create jobs by the tens of thousands, breathe passion into our children’s teachers.
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IT’S time for the Reserve Bank to stump up on Tuesday with an interest rate cut to kick-start the nation.
The Australian economy has been a one trick pony for much of the past decade, but our prized runner - the mining industry - just turned lame. It is time for the Reserve Bank to give the other parts of the economy retail, manufacturing, services and construction a giddy up this Tuesday.
It’s a close call - given the Reserve Bank has already cut interest rates 1.5 percentage points over the past year - but another rate cut at 2.30pm looks like the favourite.
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One of my first jobs in journalism was as the banking reporter. The thing you learn quickly on the banking round is that banks like to give out free stuff to journalists (Mortgage holders? Another matter entirely).
Offers of free lunches at swanky city restaurants are swiftly forthcoming. Umbrellas emblazoned with the corporate logo are common gifts, and yes, I took a few.
And so it was that on a rainy day in early November 2010, I found myself heading out to dinner, casting a wary eye at the skies and another at my Commonwealth Bank freebie umbrella sitting by the front door.
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Campaigning for better banking is a bit like the start of the footy season. We begin as optimists, trying to forget the disappointments of last year, the unfair penalties and questionable free kicks, hoping instead for some healthy competition.
That is where the similarities end. While other national sports have salary caps and at least the semblance of a level playing field, our big four banks have spent the pre-season again demonstrating why they are about as popular as a tram of drunk Collingwood supporters.
Recent weeks brought interest rate rises outside of the Reserve Bank cycle and more record profits, set against a backdrop of outsourcing, job losses and tales of high-seas parties that could put “mad Monday” to shame. Even the most hardened optimist would admit there seems more chance of Russell Crowe’s Rabbitohs claiming the NRL trophy than our major banks putting customers first.
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Wayne Swan has made a mockery of his Finance Minister of the Year award in his dithering, spineless effort at pressuring the banks to do the decent thing on interest rates.
Swan went into half-arsed PR mode yesterday, using the media to spruik the line that the Big Four banks should drop interest rates 0.25 per cent in line with the RBA’s 0.25 per cent cut in the official cash rate.
He could have, and should have, done more. His role is not to lamely express dismay on our behalf. He is the Federal Treasurer. He has contacts. At moments like this, he should personally contact the Big Four bank chiefs and threaten all manner of medieval punishments if they fail to pass on the rate cut, the whole rate cut and nothing but the whole rate cut.
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$6.4 billion in profit: Westpac Bank. $5.7 billion in profit: Commonwealth Bank. $4.2 billion in profit: the NAB. And $4.5 billion dollars in profit: the ANZ bank.
That is $21 billion in profit made by the big four banks on the back of the worst global recession the world has seen since the Great Depression. $21 billion in profit made while the government continues to provide some guarantees to the banks first provided during the global financial crisis.
The Greens believe enough is enough.
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This time yesterday Australians were merrily preparing for the Race that Stops the Nation, confident in the economists’ predictions the RBA would avoid the un-sportsmanlike act of hiking interest rates on Cup Day.
Just 24-hours later all hell has broken loose.
The RBA might have turned on the rates tap with its 25 basis points rise in official interest rates announced at 2.30 yesterday afternoon, but the Commonwealth Bank forced open the flood gates with an immediate move to put its own rates up 45 basis points.
Commbank boss Ralph Norris is not talking this morning, instead letting the Australian Bankers Association make the running.
Association chief executive Stephen Munchenberg said: “What the Commonwealth Bank is saying is that that marginal effect has built up 2 basis points or 0.2 per cent each month, and that’s now built up over nearly a year since the banks last moved interest rates, so there’s a cumulative effect there.”
Westpac just announced its profits have risen 84 per cent in the last 12 months. Yes, that wasn’t a typo - 84 per cent. In the 12 months to September 30 the Gail Kelly-steered Westpac made a net profit of $6.346 billion.
Apparently Kelly is due to make an announcement later today. Wonder what on earth that could be.
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It’s time for a hard conversation about money. Some Australians, it seems, have literally bet their houses on interest rates staying at the current record lows.
There’s a stock-standard way of reporting the outcome of a Reserve Bank meeting in which the board decides to leave the target cash rate unchanged. You’ll have heard it on radio: “Homeowners can breathe a sigh of relief after the RBA left interest rates on hold”.
But with interest rates as low as they are, any homeowner who is really holding their breath waiting for the RBA decision these days is, quite simply, living beyond their means.
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Wayne Swan went on the front foot this afternoon in response to the 0.25 per centage point interest rate rise the RBA has just announced.
Before Joe Hockey could race to the back of the NSW Parliament to accuse the Government of being responsible for the rise, Mr Swan predicted he and Malcolm Turnbull would try to pin it on him and the Prime Minister.
“Never forget that if the Liberal Party has their way Australia would be in recession right now,’’ Mr Swan said. ``For the Liberal Party to claim now that interest rates can stay at record lows is simply laughable and demonstrates their lack of any economic credibility whatsoever.”
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Update 2.35pm: The RBA has just announced it has raised the official cash rate by 0.25 a per centage point to 3.25 per cent.
The Rudd Government is yet to make a hard decision. But this won’t stop them leaving the heavy lifting to someone else - namely Glenn Stevens at the Reserve Bank.
Whether the RBA decides to lift interest rates today or on Melbourne Cup day, this will be a hard decision. It will mean increased pressure on family budgets and small business.
For the more than 200,000 Australians who have bought their first home recently, it will their first Rudd rate rise, with more to follow.
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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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