Friday, July 28, 2023

Commonwealth Bank rules that will stop you from accessing your money

I recently went through an elaborate auhentication process that the CBA required of me. Like anying over the net, it was difficult but I eventually got an approval mark. So I may be in the clear.

But I am going to keep a fair bit of cash on hand from now on. I do mostly pay by cash these days. Tyrannical bank behaviour has become another good reason to stick with cash. Nobody has ever rejected one of my $50 notes

Many Australians are unaware that they can be denied access to their money if they break rules buried in the fine print of opening an account.

The Commonwealth Bank states a customer may not use their banking services if they engage in conduct 'that in our opinion' is 'offensive, harassing or threatening to any person' or 'promotes or encourages physical or mental harm of any person'.

Professional poker player and author Crispin Rovere, who is in dispute with Westpac after they froze his account, highlighted the Commonwealth Bank's terms and conditions in a tweet last week.

A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the terms were to prevent 'to address the issue of financial abuse in the context of domestic and family violence'.

'In 2020, we updated our Acceptable Use Policy to address technology-facilitated abuse and to provide a safer banking experience for customers,' the spokesperson said.

'Any customer found to be using NetBank or the CommBank app to engage in unlawful, defamatory, harassing or threatening conduct, promoting or encouraging physical or mental harm or violence against any person may have their transactions refused or access to digital banking services suspended or discontinued'.

But some Aussies said the rules were too vague.

'Since when are banks the arbiters of moral and legal conduct? Especially the Commonwealth Bank? Do they even remember The Royal Commission findings????' one said.

'Setting themselves up to freeze people's bank accounts for wrong speak,' another added.

Others said the rules were justified.

'Classic example is abusive ex's harassing their ex-partners with 1c transfers that include threats in the description. In support services you see this all the time as a modus operandi. In the normal world, most don't even know it happens.'

In July, Mr Rovere slammed Westpac as 'totalitarian', claiming the bank froze his accounts after he made a 'modest' cash deposit following a poker win.

The bank demanded to know where Crispin Rovere's funds came from, which were 'way, way under' $10,000 and refused to unblock his account until he told them.

Last Wednesday the Commonwealth Bank came under fire after it announced it had opened a cashless 'specialist branches', where customers would no longer able to access their money over-the-counter a trend also happening with NAB branches.

'The specialist centre branches focus more on business customers and loan products and are located nearby to traditional branches,' a spokesperson said.

'We continue to maintain Australia's largest branch network for customers.'

However, the news did draw favourable responses on social media.

'Bank branches without money? WTF! That's like having a petrol station with no fuel! Do they expect people to call into the branch just to say hi and have a chat,' one said.

Another joked: 'A bank without cash, that makes real sense.'

'I suggest everyone to change their bank where this is happening,' a third said.

Mr Rovere told Daily Mail Australia he only realised there was a problem when he tried to make a card payment at a hotel he was staying in, but the bank rejected it.


Victoria to ban all new homes from having a gas connectionRent controls could be the last straw for property investors

Australian property investors have walked a tightrope for years. The Covid-19 price slump, 12 consecutive interest rate rises and a blizzard of state-based regulations. But “rent controls” have never been an issue until now.

In our second biggest residential market of Victoria, Premier Dan Andrews has confirmed the state is considering rent controls and related caps in the property market.

On the table is a specific plan to ban all rent increases for two years.

Andrews may be listening to political factions who have been calling for rent controls but he certainly has not been paying attention to the rest of the world on this issue.

He has definitely not been paying attention to the UK where landlords have fled the real estate market to the point the opposition Labour party – which has campaigned for years for rent controls – has just announced a dramatic U-turn and dropped the policy.

And he most definitely has not had a look at the situation in Ireland where rent controls pushed mum-and-dad property owners out of the market only to be replaced by US-based “vulture funds”. Once those funds went bargain hunting in housing estates, the issue had people marching in the streets.

In Australia about 90 per cent of all residential rental property is owned by mum-and-dad investors. We can debate endlessly whether the property owners are rich or not but the evidence is that a lot of them are ordinary working Australians. Tax office data shows that among the top five occupations of landlords are teachers and nurses.

As Ray White chief economist Nerida Conisbee said in this week’s Money Puzzle podcast, “putting rental controls into this situation would be disastrous”.

You might reasonably expect an economist from a real estate agency to say something like that.

But the thing is her views are shared well beyond the confines of the real estate industry. Saul Eslake, a pragmatic independent economist, has forecast rent controls will reduce the amount of buildings for rent and ensure the quality of those buildings will go downhill.

“It will probably act as a deterrent of investment in residential property … It will also probably discourage landlords from undertaking repairs and maintenance,” he told The Australian this week.

Nobody wins

Victoria is not alone. The regulation risk for investors has been building all year. The Greens kicked off the notion and it looked like it would remain on the fringe until the Queensland government triggered market interventions this year, topped with a once-a-year rent increase rule introduced in April.

As the perception grows that state governments are aiming policies squarely at property owners, investors are not waiting to see what will happen next.

A report from the Jarden investment bank has detailed how landlords have risen as a percentage of sellers in recent months – especially in the larger cities. Lending data also suggests that investors are not returning to the market even if rental growth is improving and prices are recovering.

The danger is that we have only seen the start of an investor exodus – Rent controls might just be the last straw for many investors.

In Victoria the issue is acute. Melbourne has been among the weaker markets. As Sydney residential prices rebounded by 6 per cent so far this year and the combined capitals moved higher by 3.8 per cent, Melbourne barely inched higher by just 1.1 per cent.

Victorian investors are not seeing a price rebound and now they are set to have any income rebound outlawed.

Worse still, the conditions for property investment in the state are increasingly gloomy and the Andrews government does not even pretend to see both sides of the issue. Asked whether property owners would sell up if rent controls were introduced Andrews said: “They bought the place without my advice, they can manage it without my advice.”

Market about to ease

After a long period where prices moved higher but rents barely changed, the combination of 1 per cent vacancy rates and rapidly rising interest rates triggered widespread double-digit rent rises in 2022.

Yet even with those rental increases, rental yields remain paltry at around 3 per cent in the major cities. For the first time in many years investors could get the same income from a risk free government-guaranteed bank deposit as running an investment property.

Moreover, rent increases have been keeping up with interest rate increases by any measure.

It may be little consolation for a tenant where the rent has just been pushed higher. But inside residential property, on average rents went up $266 a month, while on average interest rates increased $976. In other words tenants and property owners have both been struggling.

Ironically, while the market is at breaking point the reality is that rent controls are on the agenda just as the worst may be over.

There is every sign the rent increases are about to slow down. In regional Australia rents rises have already been reduced by half.

At CoreLogic, economist Eliza Owen says rent growth is likely to continue to moderate. Annual growth in regional rents has already slowed to 4.9 per cent in the year to June, down from a peak of 12.5 per cent in the year to November


ABC v Heston Russell defamation case: commando’s lawyer deems reporting ‘shoddy, uncorroborated’

Like Leftists generally, the ABC has scant regard for the truth

The ABC’s star source in a story accusing former commando Heston Russell of killing an Afghan soldier repeatedly described his memory as “fuzzy” and asserted he may not be a credible informant, a court has heard.

Journalist Mark Willacy also inaccurately recalled the evidence of the source to write a more compelling story that was “new and different”, Mr Russell’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC claims, slamming the reporter’s “shoddy” reporting.

The revelations emerged on the first day of a defamation trial between Heston Russell and the national broadcaster, where the former soldier has alleged two ABC articles, through the use of links and his photograph, implied he was complicit in the execution of an Afghan prisoner who was captured during a joint drug enforcement operation ­between Australia and the US.

The stories, written and produced by ABC journalists Mr Willacy and Josh Robertson, who are also respondents in the matter, aired on television, radio and online in late 2021.

The articles contained allegations from a US soldier under the pseudonym ‘Josh’ that he witnessed Australian forces shoot the prisoner in a “deliberate decision to break the rules of war” because there were too many of them to fit into the aircraft.

But on Friday, Mr Russell’s barrister Ms Chrysanthou read aloud correspondence between Mr Willacy and Josh, in which Josh claimed his memory was “hazy” and he would be unable to share “actionable information” with the journalist.

“My memory is pretty hazy, so I can‘t really give you anything specific enough to follow up with, but I wanted to reinforce the narrative that you’re writing about based on my own experiences,” Josh wrote in an email to Mr Willacy, according to Ms Chrysanthou.

“I‘m definitely open to speaking about things through email or otherwise, with the obvious caveat being that this all happened a long time ago, in the midst of constant combat operations, where I had very little sleep, and was constantly working with people from different units and countries.

“I likely won‘t be able to provide you with actionable information that could go anywhere useful in any specific investigations, only the bits and pieces I remember.”

Ms Chrysanthou accused Mr Willacy of falsely claiming Josh had referred to the soldiers as commandos, in order to make his story “different” and not simply about the SAS.

“(Josh) didn‘t say the commandos. He didn‘t say the commandos,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

“Had Mr. Willacy use different language, like ‘the ABC believes Josh was working with the commandos given the timing of his mission’ ... it wouldn’t have been as great a story, because what it comes down to is there were lots of stories about the SAS ... but Mr Willacy wanted a story about the commandos, because that was new and different.”

In her opening statement of the landmark defamation hearing, Ms Chrysanthou slammed the “shoddy uncorroborated and reckless reporting” of the ABC journalists.

“Freedom of speech does not include the publication of lies,” she said. “Frankly, when a serious allegation is made to a journalist by a source it should be critically assessed. It should be checked. It should be tested and corroborated before it is published.”

The ABC, Mr Robertson and Mr Willacy rely upon the defence of public interest, which was introduced in NSW in July 2021 and remains largely untested. Ms Chrysanthou asserted the broadcaster’s defence was “doomed”.

In order to win the case, the ABC will need to persuade the court its journalists genuinely believed the publication of the articles were in the public interest.

The Australian understands the costs associated with the case have so far exceeded $1 million.

Earlier this year, Justice Michael Lee found ten defamatory imputations put forward by the national broadcaster were carried following a preliminary hearing in November 2022.

The trial will last for five days, and began just two weeks after the ABC called an emergency hearing in the Federal Court where they declared they would be “withdrawing the public interest defence” before sensationally backflipping on the decision.

The ABC made the announcement to withdraw its public interest defence claiming it did not want to comply with court orders to reveal Josh’s identity to Mr Russell’s lawyers.

Ms Chrysanthou argued she wanted the information to make witness inquiries, but the broadcaster said it would rather pull out of the fight than hand over a source. The ABC conceded Mr Russell was entitled to judgment in his favour.

But less than 48 hours later the ABC reinstated its defence after Ms Chrysanthou revealed her team had discovered the identity of Josh from some Google searches, referencing the mountain of information the ABC made available about him in the articles.

Mr Russell is expected to take the stand for cross-examination later on Friday.




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