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Be Afraid!

To paraphrase John Emerich Edward Dalberg, the 1st Baron of Acton, Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely but what does it mean to have power?

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines power as (among other things) “delegated authority” and defines authority as the “power or right to enforce obedience”.  The ability to force other people to obey is the ability to control them and this, I suspect, is why the words “power” and “control” are so often found in the same sentence.

Over the years, in Australia at least, Banks have moved away from their original position of offering a service to a position of power over us.

I remember when a person could live their entire life without ever having to step foot inside a bank.  Admittedly, only poor people could do it since they never had the money to apply for a mortgage but it could be done.

In those days wages were paid in cash and pensions came through the mail as government cheques.  Government cheques could be cashed in banks but also in shops, supermarkets, anywhere that had the funds to cover them and all bills could be paid in cash too.

Banks had no power over us then so they courted us.  They competed with each other to win our custom and they offered us whatever they could.  They were polite, friendly, attentive, low cost and even efficient.  They gave us free piggy banks to encourage our children to save and tried hard to convince us our money was only safe with them.  If we kept it at home, the theory went, we would be targets for thieves and robbers.

It made sense back then.  Banks used to make their profits from having our cash on loan to them and they paid us for the loan in the form of interest.  There were no fees or charges then.  They knew if they tried taking our money we would get rid of our bank accounts.

Now they have us trapped.  No bank account means no way to get our pay packets and they have lost no time working out ways to steal our money legally.

As far as I can see my money would be safer under my mattress than it is in a bank.  If it was under my bed a thief MIGHT break in and steal it.  By contrast, using a bank means thieves WILL steal it and they will call the theft fees, charges and taxes.

The minute banks stepped between us and our incomes we lost all our power.  They get my income before me and they force me to pay them very unreasonable sums in the form of fees and charges for services I actually don’t need.

When I got paid in cash I used to go pay my bills and put money down as lay-by’s or part payment for things I wanted.  Most of the time there was nothing left a few days after payday anyway.

Now I get paid and I pay my bills then pay off credit card debt which is what has almost completely taken over lay-by’s and I have nothing left, same as before, except now I also have to pay between 20 and 30 dollars in fees, charges and taxes each month.  Plus the exorbitant interest charges on credit loans.

The government, another corrupt power, saw how helpless we were to stop banks chomping away at our incomes once wages ceased being paid directly to us so they climbed on the cash cow and slapped a tax on banked money.

They tax it before it leaves my employers pocket then tax it again before it gets into mine and tax it a third time when I spend it.

Talk about greedy.  I really resent being stripped of the right to say no to bank fees and the governmental cash grab but, with no bank account, I can’t get paid so I have no choice.

I thought that all that was bad enough but now I find the banks are not content with being able to stand between me and my wages, they also want their greedy fingers in other aspects of my life!

When I discovered Macquarie Bank is swiftly recruiting all rental agencies to their DEFT Payment System I did a bit of a search to see what I could find out about them.

I found a very interesting article by a journalist named Gideon Haigh titled “Who’s Afraid Of Macquarie Bank?” (Link deleted as the article has disappeared) According to this article the major goal of Macquarie Bank appears to be increasing the personal wealth of their executives.

“The announcement of Macquarie’s remuneration is a perennial of the news cycle, with Peter Costello (“It’s hard to think that anybody would be worth that kind of salary”) and John Howard (“If you asked me as a citizen do I think it’s a lot of money? You bet I do”) taking turns in stating the bleeding obvious.

The generosity of the bank’s executives towards themselves scaled new heights in the latest financial year, when they shared $209 million, three-quarters of that being trousered by half a dozen individuals: chairman Clarke, boss Moss, his dauphin Moore, investment banker Michael Carapiet, property chief Bill Moss and treasury chief Andrew Downe.”

It seems Macquarie Bank is not content to garner riches for its wealthy executives, however, they want a strangle hold over every facet of the lives of Mr and Mrs Average as well.

According to Haigh Macquarie Bank has tried to buy major companies such as Qantas and Alinta, has already bought overseas companies such as the British utility Thames Water and an emergency-services communications network called Airwave and has involved itself in many other public interest areas.

He calls them “An un-elected elite making big money from handling what the public used to own” and goes on to say:

“The risks attached to Macquarie aren’t only financial. It is not just another big company making a tonne of money; it is a company increasingly standing in for the state, and not just in Australia.”

According to Haigh:

“An investment bank undertaking roles previously performed by  government is anything but a like-for-like swap. A government is elected on the basis of what it may giveth; an investment bank is chiefly interested in what it can taketh away.”

The article refers to “a convoluted and tawdry case” Macquarie Bank was involved in that led to a subsequent inquiry which was chaired by Emeritus Professor Maurice Daly.

According to Haigh, Daly said Macquarie’s actions were “motivated solely by self-interest” and Daly’s conclusion was that:

The most generous summary of Macquarie’s actions is to call them opportunistic. A more appropriate view might be that they were predatory.”

Haigh also mentions a financial analyst named Edward Chancellor who has been researching Macquarie Bank and was not impressed by what he found.

“Modern finance is notable for three negative features,” Haigh quotes Chancellor as saying, “Excessive fees, excessive leverage and excessive complexity. Macquarie seems to have these in more extraordinary degree than most.

Body corporates, councils and real estate agents seem to be the main target of the DEFT payment system recruitment drive but that doesn’t mean the bank won’t get access to more information than that.

Port Phillip City Council, for example, says customers can:

“Use the DEFT Payment System to pay online for your animal registration renewal, parking fine, land/water rates, and miscellaneous invoices (e.g. invoices for re-instatements of road openings, grants, after hour permits, hire of community room/halls, private/reserved parking fees, vaccines, home based child care, specific home care, the St Kilda film festival, filming location fees, photo location fees, St Kilda festival sponsorship. Also Community Care Services ie: Home Care, Delivered Meals and Home Maintenance).”

I think that’s a bit scary but something that worried me even more was a page that turned up in my online search for the DEFT payment system.

The word turned up in a page titled:

Explanatory Statement — Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Rules for electronic funds transfer instructions and ‘approved third party bill payment system’ definition

The link is to the document which you have to download to read. It’s all legal mumbo-jumbo to me but it says:

“The effect of a combined reading of subsection 67(1) of the AML/CTF Act and these AML/CTF Rules is that the following types of bill payment systems are not subject to the requirements in Part 5 of that Act which deal with electronic funds transfer instructions:

(1) BPAY which is a national bill payment service provided by banks, building societies and credit unions registered with the BPAY scheme, that is accessed by a registered business’ customer via the telephone or internet and which enables the registered business to collect payments from their customers electronically;

(2) DEFT being the direct electronic funds transfer which is a payment, collection, receipting and reconciliation service that enables the payment of bills by customers registered with the DEFT scheme through the internet, BPAY, Australia Post offices, telephone or mail; and

(3) The Australian Payments Clearing Association Limited’s direct entry system.”

BPAY is owned by six different banks and the APCA is a public company owned by banks, building societies and credit unions.

DEFT is the only one that is owned by one single entity!

I have to say the words money laundering, terrorism and “NOT subject to the requirements” used in conjunction with an entity that is “wholly owned” by a single bank that has been described as opportunistic, even predatory, worries me no end!

I’m not saying Macquarie Bank is owned by the maffia or could some day be owned by them but, in answer to Haigh’s question, I think I am afraid of Macquarie Bank!

I just wish there was a way back to the past.  Back to cash in hand wages so I could buy a home safe and take my chances with the kind of thief I can prosecute if he steals from me!

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