Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Government trying to hand over a legitimate business to loan sharks

The demand for easy loans to poor people will always be there and will always require high interest rates to offset the costs and risks. So criminals will move in if such loans are banned or made unviable to legitimate business. And the crims will be MUCH worse to deal with than the present legit guys. Government regulation has already worsened the situation with their restrictions and they think more restrictions are going to make things better?

QUEENSLANDERS are losing their cars and their homes to payday lenders who exploit loopholes despite a State Government crackdown three years ago.

National Legal Aid has told the Federal Government that despite Queensland capping short-term loan costs at 48 per cent, lenders still find ways around the limit, including the use of high brokerage fees.

The Courier-Mail revealed the practice of writing loans in formats that don't attract the cap just after the law changed in 2008, prompting a fair trade investigation.

The Federal Government has been warned loophole schemes are still being used as it is on the cusp of introducing a new national cap of 2 per cent per month on loans under $2000.

"There are some (lenders) who have business models that are far more complex and no doubt there will eventually be litigation," Legal Aid consumer advocate Catherine Uhr said.

In one instance, a 25-year-old man on a disability pension and living with his mother had up to 35 loans with a series of providers using "anti-avoidance" techniques to get around the 48 per cent cap.

Ms Uhr said that in Queensland, many loans were secured over cars and property. "We see loans escalate. And the reason they've come to get legal advice is because they're losing their car or losing their home," she said. "There's nothing stopping you charging up to 48 per cent and taking security over the house in Queensland."

It comes as the industry yesterday tried to ramp up its opposition to the national cap on small loans, arguing the limits would make loans unviable and leave a hole in the lending market.

The Federal Government inquiry into the new legislation heard how most people took the loans out to cover spiralling utility bills, before finding themselves in a disastrous debt crisis.

Payday lenders attempted to defend themselves in the inquiry yesterday, with Money 3 chief Robert Bryant saying: "We don't sell money, we sell self esteem."

Cash Converters, the biggest provider of short-term loans in the country, told the inquiry the Bill would force them out of business.

Its submission to the inquiry, kept secret until yesterday, admitted that the company had turned to brokerage fees in Queensland in order to get around the cap.


"Independents" who betrayed their electorates find that their voters won't be bought

THEY'RE Parliament's billion-dollar men - between them securing almost $1 billion in new funding for their electorates in just over a year. But despite it all, they are in dire danger of losing their jobs.

Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott - two of the three independents who supported Julia Gillard to form government - have won a list of projects for their regional NSW electorates, already totalling more than $820 million by The Sydney Morning Herald's calculation and with announcements on another $1.1 billion in regional spending still to come.

Their agreement to form government guaranteed the pair - and their fellow independent Andrew Wilkie - three grants worth $456 million, more than a third of the total $1.3 billion handed out in a special "regional priority" round of the Health and Hospitals Infrastructure Fund, once the projects met certain criteria.

The other 111 grant proposals from around the country that also met the criteria, together requesting more than $2 billion, had to fight it out for the remaining $840 million.

But according to the latest Newspoll, despite the largesse and special treatment, Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott have suffered a dramatic decline in support, with voters in their electorates overwhelmingly opposing their decision to vote for the carbon pricing scheme.

Mr Windsor, the member for New England, said he hoped his constituents would eventually look at the bigger picture. "If you said you weren't bothered, you could be accused of taking your people for granted," he said. "But there's no election today and when there is an election, people will make a decision on the totality of my representation, rather than on the basis of myths about a carbon tax."

Mr Oakeshott said he hoped voters would reassess by looking at "fact over fiction and reality over rhetoric".

But the Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, said he would be standing "good candidates" in both electorates.

The grants for the Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Royal Hobart hospitals were three of the four biggest in the 62 awarded in the round. Only one other - to the Bega Valley Health Service in the marginal Labor seat of Eden-Monaro - exceeded $100 million.

The grants were selected by the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, and the cabinet from 114 proposals worth $2.4 billion that met the funding criteria, freedom-of-information documents supplied to the Herald show. Another 123 proposals did not meet the criteria.

A spokesman for Ms Roxon said that once the advisory board had confirmed the three projects in the independents' electorates met the criteria, they were "guaranteed funding because they had been part of the agreement to form government".

It is accepted practice that governments give preference to election spending promises provided they meet bureaucratic assessments.

But it is unclear whether the promises to the independents fall into this category considering they were made after the election, during the negotiation to form government. The funding guidelines and criteria did not indicate that the three grants would be preferred.


Sydney "occupiers" unimpressive too

Gerard Henderson

Visiting the Occupy Sydney demonstration outside the Reserve Bank in Martin Place on Friday was something of a surreal experience. Despite the placard quoting Marxist Che Guevara ("a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love"), the demonstration was not about revolution. Rather, the prevailing mood was one of entitlement, as is the case in some 900 similar protests now occurring throughout the world.

While taking notes, I was approached by a young woman who wanted to tell me her story. It turned out she was an unemployed law graduate who had been looking for work for the past three months. Her problem? Well, she wanted to work in a relatively low-paying community law job but the only positions available for law graduates were in relatively high-paying CBD firms. Some injustice, don't you think?

When I asked why the number of demonstrators seemed small, the response was that many went to work during the day in the IT and other industries and returned to the protest site each evening. The group assembled that morning appeared to be students, unemployed young men and women and a few pensioners, all of whom would probably have been receiving some government-funded payment or subsidy.

This seemed at odds with the signs calling for the end of capitalism in general and taxation in particular. When I asked how the handouts could be funded if taxation was abandoned for the 99 per cent of Australians whom the protesters said they were representing, the young woman said she did not agree with all the placards. She also claimed to have no problem with the Reserve Bank or indeed capitalism. It turned out her real interest was climate change and she wanted huge increases in government subsidies for alternative energy projects. Now.

It seemed that the Occupy Sydney protesters had a sense of entitlement that extended far beyond jobs and policy. Their demands included Wi-Fi, toilets and the right to construct tents. City of Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard was reported as saying that he was supportive of legal protests but opposed "a protest of the anarchist left designed to provoke the authorities and businesses of the city". On Sunday, NSW Police broke up the camp. The move was backed by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, but criticised by the lord mayor, Clover Moore.

The Victoria Police had taken similar action in Melbourne on Friday. The Occupy Melbourne protests had turned parts of the Melbourne CBD into a moveable slum and disrupted numerous small businesses in the vicinity. The Sunday Age supported the demonstration, editorialising that "grassroots demonstrators do not threaten civic life, but in many ways enhance it". Needless to say, businesses losing serious money each day have a different conception of grassroots democracy.

On Saturday I walked past Melbourne's City Square. There was a heavy police and security presence. It seems the Victorian authorities have junked the hand-holding approach to civil disorder evident when Christine Nixon was police commissioner. The decision to clear the City Square was initiated by the Melbourne lord mayor, Robert Doyle, with the support of the Liberal premier, Ted Baillieu, Labor Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews and Gillard government minister Bill Shorten. The only prominent politician to support the demonstrators was the Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

Historically, the left in Australia has derided the influence of American culture. Yet the Occupy Sydney and Melbourne movements are a copy of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has taken over Zuccotti Park. The American protest is very much a production of the white middle class and it has also created a moveable slum among New York businesses and neighbourhoods.

However, there is, or should be, one essential difference between the protests. The crowd in Zuccotti Park should be directing its anger at the government in Washington presiding over near-record spending and debt accompanied by high levels of unemployment - a special worry among the young and African Americans.

Australia, on the other hand, has one of the strongest economies in the Western world with relatively low unemployment, primarily due to the economic reforms undertaken between 1983 and 2007 by the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments. Also, the Australian financial system was well-regulated. Here the reforms initiated by Peter Costello, to ensure the independence of the Reserve Bank and to establish the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, had a most beneficial effect when the global financial crisis occurred in 2008. Yet the Occupy Sydney movement saw fit to demonstrate outside the Reserve Bank.

Western democracies offer numerous opportunities for protests. The likes of Bandt and Moore take a soft attitude to this occupation of public places, but would be most unlikely to adopt a similar approach if the protesters constituted Tea Party imitators opposing a carbon tax or militant Christians opposing abortion or homosexuality.

One of the Occupy Melbourne organisers acknowledged that the demonstration did not have a point. Narcissism, however, is a very contemporary attitude.


This is the city that was going to die of drought, according to prominent Warmist Tim Flannery

Perth could receive a month's worth of rain this week alone - and more downfalls could be on the way to spoil the weekend Commonwealth Heads Of Government meeting.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke reported 28mm of rain in Perth since about 10pm last night and the the gauge is expected to get to 30mm before the showers clear later today.

Rain is then expected to return tomorrow and Thursday and, with a forecast for 10 to 20mm, the weekly rainfall could be pushing the October average of 52mm. "It's the biggest October rainfall in 12 years," Mr Dutschke said.

"Perth has had more than half its monthly rainfall overnight and, if the rain returns tomorrow and Thursday as we expect, it could be up around the month's average by week's end."

CHOGM will get underway on Friday with much fanfare but, by Sunday, participants and on-lookers could be again reaching for their umbrellas.

"There is a chance of the showers and storms returning on the weekend - probably moreso Sunday than Saturday," Mr Dutschke said.

"At the moment most of that weather looks like being to the north but there is some chance it will be seen in Perth as well." Several areas of the wheatbelt also received strong overnight falls.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I have some sympathy with Occupy Wallstreeters in the US as a hell of a lot of Americans have lost a lot, too many to wag the finger at them and call them all bludgers, communists, liberals (small l of course) or whatever either Rightist media buzzword gets thrown at them. The Australian demonstrations on the other hand are a bit of an embarrassment in a nation that hasn't really lost anything in comparison. Just a piece of ugly me-too-ism from the dreadlock Left. I remember being involved in Nurses industrial action in the 80s and any public demonstration attracted all sorts of socialist-action types who just tagged along uninvited and caused trouble (perhaps intentionally), deflecting attention from our grievances and onto their behaviour.