Tag Archives: money

Big business rip-offs


Here in Australia we are at the tail end of a Royal Commission into our banking and superannuation sector.

Shock, horror, surprise, they were all ripping us off by charging excessive fees, charging fees for nothing, and cost us all thousands by not investing with our best interests at heart.

The penalties? Fines, with possible repayments to customers.

Here’s the thing. They gained billions of dollars and will have to pay back a couple of billion. Net result, billions in their pockets.

Why isn’t there a very simple law? Rip off your customers and you have to repay them double what you charged, and the onus is on the business to locate every affected customer or they pay back triple the amount.

Easy, simple and a deterrent large enough to make them think twice about expanding their bottom line at the expense of integrity.

It can apply to any business, large or small.

If these penalties are considered ‘excessive’ by anyone, please consider the hundreds, maybe thousands of people who lost their homes because of perverted financial advice born from greed.

Imagine having to pay back double the price of a lost home. How many times would this happen before behaviour changed?

Not many, I believe.

Quite simply, make the punishment fit the intention as well as the outcome of the crime.

Our true inflation figure and how it is ripping us off


I am sure you have all noticed the same thing.

For almost everything you purchase from the supermarket today, you are receiving around 20 percent less in actual product than you used to receive a year ago, and for the same price.

Our real inflation figure is around 7-8 percent, maybe more. Yet the figures coming out of the the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate inflation is no higher than 2.5 percent.

So our wages increase by a quarter of the increased costs we pay for essential goods every day, meaning our buying power is being significantly eroded. We simply cannot buy anywhere near as much in the supermarket today as we did last year, the year before that and so on.

No wonder we all feel a lot worse off today, and get very angry when politicians state the ‘official’ yet wildly inaccurate inflation figure.

Its official title is ‘household gross disposable income’ and it is decreasing as fast as water draining from a bath once the plug is removed. Or at least it sometimes feels that way.

The ‘statistics’ say we should all be fine, yet we have more people seeking assistance than ever before. And our purchasing power has reduced by 20 percent or more on many of our regular food items.

For example, packets of nutritious nutbars we used to enjoy did come in packs of six. Without any price reduction they then contained five per pack, and now only four. They then reduced the size of each individual bar by 20 percent. The price of each box has not reduced at all

So the ABS, who only look at the surface and so obtain meaningless figures, sees no increase.

Obviously their data collection is way off, and they should have started to include the size of items as well as price some years ago.

It started when bottles of wine and spirits reduced from 750ml to 700ml, with no increase in price, and the ABS registered no increase in inflation.

Many of us did not notice this seven percent increase in overall price, encouraging others to do the same.

The ABS has been completely wrong for some years now.

Packets of potato chips now contain far fewer chips, and they cunningly fill the rest of each bag with compressed air. This actually adds weight, meaning the weight shown on the packet is the same, or very close to the same, weight was before. Unfortunately we cannot eat air, yet we are now paying for it.

Once again the fast diminishing cash in our pockets tells the real story.

If the ABS does not get its act together quickly and measure the real cost of living increases we experience every day, we will soon have our buying power reduced by 50 percent with only, if we are lucky, an increase in wages of 2.5 percent.

Businesses know this, and also know it contributes to their ever increasing bottom lines so they are not going to speak up any time soon. The government, likewise, loves announcing ‘low’ inflation as evidence of their wonderful economic management.

I have read quotes from officials within the ABS admitting they are not getting the inflation figures correct. How about they simply include measurements/quantities of food items we now receive for the same money? It would quickly show the correct inflation figure, at approximately four times the current figure.

However that would mean admitting to incorrect calculations for the past several years. Why do that when the government is so happy with the way they calculate it now?

We are all being squeezed in a vice consisting of business profits and fast diminishing products for the same amount of our money.

Once again our confidence in those who are meant to know what they are doing, because it directly affects our quality of life, is eroding almost as quickly as the size of the products we buy.

So if the increased profits businesses are making from this underhanded price manipulation are not being shared with us in higher wages, why does the federal government think their planned tax cuts will be passed on?

As always the lower and middle classes suffer so the rich can get richer. The current gap between the rich and poor has never been bigger and shows no sign of slowing.

When the results of all the bi-elections from yesterday come in and victory is dominated by independents, the two main political party’s have only themselves to blame.

We are not as gullible as they think we are.

Finally I must, in the interest of balance, mention the new government here in South Australia. So far they have met all their election promises and look like they are doing their best to meet all of them wherever possible. This is reflected in recent business confidence figures being the highest this State has seen for a very, very long time.

Unfortunately they have no clout when it comes to calculating real inflation. We can only hope that a federal government will follow their lead soon and tell it like it is.

In the meantime we progressively get poorer and, unless we read and note the weight and quantity of everything we buy, it will only get worse.

But hey, with inflation at only 2.5 percent why worry?

Is there too much white collar crime or are we lucky there isn’t more of it?


We live in a society where white collar crime has never been higher, or more well protected.

Just read any book on the GFC or High Frequency Trading. You will quickly learn how so many became so rich at the expense of the hard working lower and middle class. Like you and me.

And no-one has been charged with committing any crime.

In the GFC companies (driven by individuals within them) made junk loans to people they knew were never going to pay them back. They then packaged them up and called them A+ secure, sold them to other investors for huge commissions then bet on those same junk loans defaulting.

And yet we still listen to those corrupt ratings agencies, Standard and Poor and Moodys, and the ratings they put on investments today. Why? Because the corrupr at the top welcomed them back with open arms as being fellow greedy and unlawful money makers, just like them.

They made millions, some billions, and yet no-one was held accountable.

Indeed the senior ezexutives of companies they knew were going to collapse, sold their company for a bargain price but not before they votes themselves huge bonuses. These bonuses were then paid by the US government bailout funds. Tax dollars of individuals put to good use…NOT.

As soon as the GFC was exploding around them the same firms started high frequency trading. I will not attempt to explain it in detail here, because not even some of those who participated do not know how it works. Suffice it to say that the big end of town were making stock trades that made them hundreds of millions while the average investor, often their own clients (people like you and me) lost everything.

Given these are only two situations that we actually know about, there must be many, many more. The current Royal Commission into the finance sector here in Australia has revealed much, but only because the Australian Government was forced kicking and screaming to agree to setup this investigation. They were trying to protect their mates.

Is it a coincidence that our Prime Minister made a fortune as a merchant banker and therefore would have countless contacts, friends, amongst the senior executives now being investigated?

As disgusting as all these examples are, I now believe that the ease that people and businesses can make themselves richer and the poor (us) poorer, we are actually fortunate it doesn’t happen more often.

If you read enough books, and get a pool of money together through friends, family and a few acquaintances you too can rip people off to your benefit.

So as bad as it is, and it is pretty damn bad, I actually believe we are lucky more people do not succumb to this temptation.

Corruption in our society starts at the top with heads of big business and political parties, and as proven many times over the fish rots from the head. So they are setting us all an example that we could easily follow. That example is greed.

Yet approximately only the top 5% do so. It should be more widespread but I do not believe it is. Why? Because the majority of people have ethics and morals that prevent them from acting as decedantly and greedily.

Yes, we live in bad times like never before as the gap between rich and poor grows by the hour.

However I like to believe that it could be a lot, lot worse and will stand with those trying desperately to shine light into dark corners.

Because greed is not hard wired into our system, helping others is.

I just hope there are enough of us to stem the growing tide.

The Royal Wedding – why it is a great advertisement for a Republic


Warning: if you love the Royal Family you may want to stop reading.

Before this event was shown on millions of televisions worldwide, I read an article that said over two billion people would be watching. This was quickly changed to a few hundred million, and I think that is part of the problem.

Hype.

The Royal Family changed their surname in World War I to Windsor, as they are all of German descent. But no, that is not what I do not like about them. What I don’t like is people holding positions of power and influence simply because of who their mother is, and the industry of hype that surrounds them.

Take Royal Commentators. Who would employ these egotistical windbags if they didn’t have the Royal Family to be interviewed and written about? No one I suspect. Also losing their jobs would be their voice coaches, who teach them to speak with an overly exaggerated posh English accent that millions fall for. Margaret Thatcher employed one of these voice coaches and went from a backbencher to Prime Minister.

Oh how gullible we are as a collective.

I am from a business background and had to work very hard for everything I have, as have the other nearly six billion people on this planet. Sure, people can be born into wealth and that happens on a daily basis, but they are not also born with power over how countries are governed. Unless of course you include North Korea, and gee isn’t that going well.

Yes we are very fortunate that the British Royal Family seem relatively sane, but if Prince Charles had married Camilla when he had wanted to, and there was no Diana in their bloodline, I believe we would already be a Republic.

My main point is that we already should be a Republic. Why?

Glad you asked.

We currently have a Governor General who can wield massive power over our country (just look at the 1970s) and answers only to their boss, the Queen. Residing on the other side of the planet the Queen mainly understands our society from what her advisors tell her. She could be receiving good advice, yes, but there is also a fifty percent chance that the advice is bad.

Bottom line is she is not Australian and is not immersed in our society, so why is she our ultimate ruler? We get upset when a politician doesn’t live in the electorate they are campaigning in, yet we bow to the Queen of England who doesn’t even live in our country?

Which brings me around to those projected television audience figures.

For some reason people become so overly excited that everything about the Queen and her family is highly exaggerated. How can billions become millions? Media hype.

The media see dollar signs in the Royals (and not much else). Television stations jack up the prices of advertising during the wedding. Countless photographs of the happy couple adorn the covers, insides and everywhere else on magazines and newspapers for weeks on end. Newspapers in particular temporarily forget that their job is to inform us about what is happening in our own country. Granted, this doesn’t happen much any more because Mr Murdoch has sacked all the good investigative journalists, instead his newspapers copy stories to fill pages (pick up a paper from Melbourne and you will read the same articles in the paper in Adelaide).

Hype turned up to 11, blaring at us from every direction, because of one wedding that is taking place on the other side of the world. And the only reason many of us are interested is because the people involved were born into wealth and power? Are we really that discontented in our own lives? Do we really believe that they should rule over us instead of a democratically elected Head of State who, shock horror, would be an Australian?

Granted they do some good work in raising funds for good causes but so do thousands of families in Australia, and they don’t get to live in a castle with servants. The amount of money spent on this wedding could save thousands of lives amongst the two billion people who currently make only $2 a day. Same with the homeless, who I suspect were removed from the route taken by the horse and buggy show before the cameras arrived.

There, but for the grace of a few missed pay days, go the rest of us.

If you want to watch a wedding and cry at the love and devotion two people have for each other, there are hundreds of them that happen every Saturday. They may not have veils longer than a football field, but they are displays of love and therefore, in my opinion, far more ‘tear worthy’ than the one on every television last weekend.

Thank god for Netflix!

The Business of Governing


The common statement “the business of governing” is detrimental, as the focus should be upon providing government with the best efficiencies private business experience, and expertise, has to offer.

The statement should read “business within government”, providing a completely different mindset.

This involves implementing within government the best efficiencies of business by identifying process improvements, removing duplication of effort, improving inter-departmental coordination, reviewing and assessing key personnel (always with the goal of ‘best fit’) with positions allocated by merit, and producing budget savings through operational efficiencies, all with a focus on customer (public) outcomes and improved service.

Quantifiable achievements would include;

  1. Designate and decide on all areas of Departmental and Ministerial responsibility so no-one can “pass the buck”.
  2. Allocate responsibilities and targets to ensure the desired and clearly stated outcomes are achieved within set time-frames.
  3. Ensure all cost savings achieved are ongoing, no one-off savings included in targets, by implementing guidelines, overseeing their implementation and educating management.
  4. Allocation of necessary resources (from those existing within government), setting applicable Key Performance Levels (KPL) and managing staff to complete set objectives and achieve all desired outcomes.
  5. All reports produced to be concise and written in plain English, with detailed analysis provided only when requested.
  6. The emphasis will be on outcomes, results, savings, improved service and efficiency not on unnecessary documentation, sub-committees or meetings.

This proposal would require minimal personnel for it would allocate additional resources from other Departments (not exceeding an agreed limit), and investigate and set goals, priorities and outcomes in simple terms.

Initial targets would be;

  1. Documented ongoing budgetary savings through reduced red tape via improved coordination, demarcation and processes.
  2. Improved accountability within government departments creating efficiencies and gains in timelines and processes.
  3. Improved ‘connection’ between wants and needs of the public and what government provides.
  4. Improved public service in all areas, with all agreed objectives (including time-frames) being met.
  5. Overall improved perception of government efficiency, thereby attracting a higher class of personnel and additional budget savings through their specialist knowledge and experience.
  6. Improved performance measurement and ongoing guidance to ensure operational efficiencies are maintained.

Is the above business-like approach really outside the capabilities of our elected officials? When every vote counts, decisions can be compromised.

This is an unfortunate fact since Democracy (or what we now know as Democracy) began.

It would therefore be prudent to appoint a successful business person to head such a Department with powers level with that of a Minister, to ensure success.

The saving of hundreds of thousands of dollars would result, if expedited correctly, an amount equal to hundreds of people not having to pay tax for a year. As the appointee would be on a contract they would have no fear of losing votes, leading to decisive and correct decisions being made.

Surely a winner for everyone, especially as the above savings figure is extremely conservative. In fact, savings of millions of dollars would be the set target, anything less being regarded as a failure, over the term of implementation (years).

But would politicians have the courage to give someone the power and authority to achieve this? Unfortunately I fear not, for once again they would wonder if introducing such a system might anger some minority groups and lose them votes. Or potentially cause disgruntled public servants to voice discontent. The right person for this role would take note of any such discontent and target them for removal.

Change is far easier to implement when you have new employees, who are unaware of ‘old’ procedures and are more willing to accept new ways of thinking.

The Decaying Morality of Big Business in Australia


Once upon a time…yes I am using a fairytale opening, because big business and morals in this country has now become a fairytale concept.

With the Royal Commission into Banks, who would be naive enough to think that all the other big publicly listed businesses actually do the right thing?

Why would they?

Their advertising says that you, the customer, are the most important thing to them when in fact it is hitting targets to gain bonuses. They couldn’t care less how they achieve their bonuses just as long as they receive them.

When was the last time you heard of a major Australian public company contributing to a crowdfunding campaign for someone in desperate need? I cannot remember one.

Small businesses have, however, and enjoy a far better image as a result.

The four major banks should have an ‘Humanitarian Budget’ which is allocated to the worthiest causes as judged by senior, or even middle management (remember them?). They can, and should, by any moral or ethical argument put some of the Billions of dollars in profit they make each year towards dozens, perhaps hundreds, of worthy causes. Their bottom line would barely be affected.

The one stupid, contrary argument (and unfortunately it is law) is that as publicly listed companies they must put shareholders interests first. In other words they must maximise shareholders’ dividend payments.

As mentioned they could easily give away $10M each and split it up into hundreds of worthy causes. However their shareholders would rightly ask “Hey, by law you have to put us first and by giving that money away I got $10 less in dividend income!”

With the law on their side unfortunately it is a circular argument, a Catch 22.

As long as that law remains as it stands, profits will always be put before helping people where public companies are concerned. Perhaps a ‘tweaking’ of the law is required?

Many large private companies (but still too few) are well known for their generosity. I argue it is because they decide what to spend their profits on, not a horde of needy shareholders.

At this stage I must put my own hand up, and reveal that I have owned shares and as a shareholder I lived for those dividends. Yes, I am two faced but at least I admit it and am ready to discuss badly needed change.

The big four banks might point to a number of charitable donations, but they seem to only contribute if they can place a huge logo on it, in order to achieve a return on investment for their marketing dollars. Yes, they call helping people in need “Marketing”.

Westpac used to have a lovely rescue helicopter flying around but only because it was saturated with their logo. Then they did some analysis and ROI (return on investment) calculations and ceased funding this rescue helicopter. Not because they couldn’t afford it, but because they need to put shareholders first followed closely by their bonuses (or is it the other way around?).

Putting bonuses ahead of helping people is disgusting and definitely unAustralian. Which is ironic because had they helped more families they would have received more favourable media coverage and may not be facing a damaging Royal Commission right now. It would definitely would change our perception of them.

But there is one final problem, and this is the biggest and by far the most difficult to understand. Almost everyone hates the big four banks, and will complain about them ad nauseum but they will not close their accounts and take their business elsewhere! The big four easily have 85% of the total market, so there is no incentive on them, at all, to change their ways. In fact it encourages them to behave badly because their customers do not leave them.

So, in the end, it is your own apathy and unwillingness to follow through on your complaints that makes them so comfortable. It also creates the perfect environment for corruption, because they know that no matter what they do their customers, by and large, will stay with them. So up go fees, down goes quality of service and contributing to the community.

Well done Australians, you reep what you sow.

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Recognition for Volunteers


I have no idea how many volunteers there are in Australia, or the world, but I do know they need more recognition!

What would we do without them? They care for the sick, give the lonely company, arrange fund-raising events, give of their own time in their busy lives, save governments (local, State and Federal) millions of dollars by looking after those who cannot look after themselves, support local sporting clubs that would not be there without them, assist local schools to raise money to help our children, look after children that are not theirs (grandparents) because many children’s parents cannot, take care of their partner when they cannot do it themselves, fight fires for us and pick up rubbish that is crudely discarded by unthinking morons.

The list goes on, and on, and on and on.

They do all of these things expecting nothing in return except for an occasional “thank you”.

I have a suggestion; why don’t we recognise them officially and publicly on a regular basis. Thank them more as a whole community and reward their sacrifices in some way that says “If you had not contributed your time for free, nothing would have happened and our entire society would suffer as a result”.

My suggestion is that we award volunteers points, perhaps one point for every hour they contribute to making the world around us a much better place?

Then, at the end of the year, their points are submitted and based upon the number of points received they receive something in return. Perhaps it is a plaque they can put on their wall to make them feel proud and appreciated, or a dinner out whilst others look after their family for once, or a reduction in their income taxes (much cheaper for the government than having to employ people and systems to fill the gap), or a range of gifts they can choose from donated by corporates and those of us who don’t (or just cannot) volunteer ourselves?

The more points they accrue the more their ‘appreciation gift’ is worth.

Volunteers are constantly overlooked, taken for granted and have their contribution ignored by governments that would be penniless without them.

Many volunteers, indeed most of them, contribute expecting nothing in return and I believe they should. If we continue to take them for granted they may very well withdraw their services and would have every right to do so.

We desperately need these amazing volunteers, yet do little in the way of acknowledging them and this imbalance, if allowed to continue, could result in all of us paying higher taxes to employ people to fill the significant gap that volunteers currently provide. Or we go without the services they provide, and our lives would be the lesser for it.

Volunteers are the backbone of our society, and sustained and meaningful acknowledgement of this fact needs to occur in order to keep the volunteers we have, and to encourage others to contribute.