Rosemary Pridmore writes: Re. “Many more tales of bank fee forgiveness” (yesterday, item 4). It is so nice to find out that everyone else is as p-ssed off about bank fees as I am, and that we are all finally getting the balls to confront the banks. Has anyone else had an overdrawn fee charged by Westpac because, in this modern day of online banking, they processed the transactions that took money out of an account instants before the transactions that put it in! We changed banks and can’t be happier – except Westpac have continued to stuff around with our old accounts, over five months since we closed the last one!

Chris writes: After reading all your stories on fee reversals I thought I’d chivvy my wife to phone up Westpac about her two $35 overlimit fees from January. Her argument was that as she is charged interest on the full account balance the moment she goes overdrawn it is unfair to also charge a separate overlimit fee. They put up a fight and after it was escalated to a supervisor, who put up a bigger fight, they consented to refunding one of the fees. My wife persevered and said that she wants to follow their dispute resolution process for the fee that they won’t refund. Eventually both fees were reversed and she was told that a note has been put on the system that she is now aware of the fee and that a future refund won’t be allowed. It wasn’t a simple process, however a ten minute phone call that yielded $70 is a good result. Thanks Crikey, and keep up the pressure.

Rod Bruem writes: I’ve been a loyal ANZ Bank customer for more than 20 years. Two years ago when I took out a home loan it came with a compulsory “gold” credit card which seems to offer no extra benefits, yet they slug me a fee of $350 per year (plus all the other charges) and they say they’ll keep charging me even if I cut up the card. I could live with it except for the fact that I’ve since had two unauthorised debits made to the card and each time ANZ’s attitude has been “don’t want to know about it”. I’m incensed every time I see their TV commercials that boast about ANZ’s high-security “eagle” card protection. Can’t wait to take my business elsewhere.

Kate writes: Not quite bank fees but bank credit cards… I decided to get rid of my ANZ gold visa card because the annual fee went up by $70 to $150. I transferred my outstanding balance to a much lower rate at another bank and rang ANZ to cancel. They pleaded and then offered to waive the $150 fee. I said ok but I don’t want the card, won’t use it but what happens in a year when you charge me $150 again? The guy on the phone said “Call us then and we’ll see what we can do”. My account was credited with $150 even though I transferred to another card. Six months later they have now offered me a 6.5% interest rate (the regular gold visa is about 17.45%) for six months to transfer back. Just goes to show how much they love you when you no longer love them… 

Frank Yourn writes: My comment is not about penalty fees, but about why banks can deduct a charge from an incoming overseas TT and it doesn’t show up anywhere on the bank statement so there is no paper trail to bring the fee to account. And the customer’s account is left with a payment shortfall which is not the customer’s doing. Setting aside any argument about whether the fee is appropriate or not, at the very least the bank should show the full amount of the deposit and then show the fee as a separate debit. It seems to me this is a fee by stealth.

Adam Rope writes: Re. “Climate change is bunk: Ray Evans tells us why” (yesterday, item 5). Let me see if I’ve got this straight. The Lavoisier Group is launching a book today, one of whose nine main points is to rebut the broadly held idea that “scientific sceptics are in the pay of the fossil fuel industries and their arguments are thus fatally compromised.” Indeed the header actually states that “These claims are an expression of hope, not of reality”. Can I just check that this is the same Lavoisier Group that is a WA think tank “closely associated” with mining corporations, and set up specifically to question climate change science? Yup, made my day that one, thanks for the laugh.

Chris Davis writes: I am no expert on economics or climate change, so can offer little here, except to say that in my opinion Ray can safely and conclusively be considered a “sceptic” and standing firmly on one side – his point 9 clearly ruining what otherwise was an interesting article. To end with warnings of dire economic calamity sounds so much like rising sea levels I don’t need his biased scaremongering opinions, something I wish would change in all discussions on this point.

Ronald Watts writes: Ray Evans’s short dissertation on why we don’t have to worry about greenhouse gas emissions would be funny if it were not such a serious issue. None of his nine conclusions is supported by peer-reviewed evidence and publication, which is all that counts. I will confine my rebuttals to one for which I claim professional expertise: his assertion that the “radiation properties of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are already saturated”, and so further increases will not affect temperatures. Sadly for Ray’s theory, the radiative properties of the atmosphere change with altitude, so more CO2 means absorption takes place at ever higher altitudes, and temperatures rise accordingly. This was discovered in 1938. The changes in emission predicted by this model have been confirmed by satellite radiation measurements.

Michael K Harvey writes: As a longtime subscriber to several international science magazines in my desperate search for truth, I would like to see a few more facts backing up Evans’s “facts”, particularly about global warming being some sort of scam. I certainly don’t see his views represented in these journals. This is not some physics debate about string theory. If we get this moment wrong we’re stuffed and so is the thermostat. The whole thing smacks of a typical right-wing spin campaign to keep some of us comfortably chugging along raking in the bucks from mining, oil and combustion-engine machines instead of addressing our real impact on the earth. The solution is not growth, having more babies, selling poisons to suckers and making a killing quickly on the stock exchange, but ensuring we don’t turn our only home into a dunny fit only for bacteria. Ironically, later on you take Honda to issue for hypocrisy on its “earth” car for pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

Ewen Finnane writes: Publishing the garbage put out by Ray Evans does nothing but cause confusion and inaction on climate warming. Of course this is Ray Evans’s motive. But it raises the question as to whether Crikey is being responsible in giving space for Evans and his associates to spread their nonsense. George Monbiot has expressed this so well in the following words: “Picture a situation in which most of the media, despite the overwhelming weight of medical opinion, refused to accept that there was a connection between smoking and lung cancer. Imagine that every time new evidence emerged, they asked someone with no medical qualifications to write a piece dismissing the evidence and claiming that there was no consensus on the issue. Imagine that the BBC, in the interests of ‘debate’, wheeled out one of the tiny number of scientists who says that smoking and cancer aren’t linked, or that giving up isn’t worth the trouble, every time the issue of cancer was raised. Imagine that, as a result, next to nothing was done about the problem, to the delight of the tobacco industry and the detriment of millions of smokers. We would surely describe the newspapers and the BBC as grossly irresponsible.”

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. Walker, Howard and nuclear power. Standards? What standards? People seem to be missing the point in the nuclear power station matter. Ron calls John for a cosy chat, John starts shilling for the nuclear industry, an inquiry is set up, an inquiry that seems to have a predetermined outcome and John’s your uncle. But in the Switkowski report is makes it clear that the industry is not viable unless there is a huge level of government subsidy by way of a direct handout or a a carbon tax on coal. Whatever it is, it will be a leg up for the company that has the inside running. That is the dodginess of all this. Trying to turn it into a pro or anti nuclear power station issue is deceptive. John was doing for Ron what he did for Dick at Manildra with his ethanol pipe dreams. It’s third world stuff, this. In other countries they have a word for this sort of interaction between governments and business and it is not a very nice word.

Stephen Woods writes: According to Stephen Mayne (yesterday, item 23), “…nuclear power is inevitable in Australia…”. Really! Whose crystal balls have you been looking at, Stephen? With technology changing at a rapid pace, and even the doubters of global warming starting to change their tune, I surely hope we go for something a hell of a lot more environmentally sensitive than the most toxic way to make pollution the world has ever seen!

Liza Neil writes: Re. “Peter Garrett: healthy, wealthy, unwise?” (yesterday, item 9). The great thing about Peter Garrett is that we all helped him make his fortune by supporting the message, music and struggles of the “Oils”. Was there something underhanded that we missed? The thing the public hates is a hypocrite!

Kay Fisher writes: Thanks to Andrew Gordon (yesterday, comments) for showing how (and why) the accommodation entitlement rules for MPs are different to public servants in most Federal Government Departments. That was what I thought. No doubt that 1% efficiency dividend rule for departments, instituted by this government, is also paying off here. It also provides Mr Howard and Mr Phelps with a few pointers on how accommodation expenses can be paid on the basis of necessity rather than MP-given right. It’s not rocket science. It just requires a culture shift in the “entitlement” attitude of MPs – much like the shift that was widely trumpeted as necessary for lazy public servants and bludging welfare recipients. But we shouldn’t be surprised MPs are behind the times because pretty much every other rule parliamentarians are operating under (whether probity, ethics, or simply debating regime) is astonishingly antiquated. Yup, and that’s what you get when no-one governs the governors but themselves.

JM Meville writes: Re. Water rights. Macquarie Bank’s agribusiness is reportedly buying up water rights ahead of Howard and Turnbull”s proposed “rescue” of the Murray-Darling catchment area. Has anyone else noticed that as early as 2002 Macquarie Bank also looked at what is now Turnbull’s second favourite water scheme – ie, his proposal for NSW border rivers water diversion to southern Queensland? Somehow it is hard to believe that it is actually the current drought which is running the Federal Government’s water agenda. With Goldman Sachs often handling business transactions for large water traders, it is even harder.

Tony Davison, General Manager at Channel Seven Adelaide, writes: Re. Last night’s TV ratings (yesterday, item 22). I noticed you reported “ACA … won everywhere bar Perth” on Tuesday night. TT won in Adelaide by 3,895. Not a lot, but a win is a win. 

Rory Robertson, an economist at Macquarie Bank, writes: Re. Housing affordability. The IPA’s Alan Moran (yesterday, comments) is much stronger on abuse than on facts. Yet again he failed to acknowledge that about half of Demographia’s top-42 “affordable” cities are in America’s “Rust Belt”. And that no major coastal city in the English-speaking world is “affordable”, according to Demographia’s six-country dataset, whereas important coastal cities dominate its top-26 list of expensive places. Of course, it’s not news that homes are affordable in America’s rust belt, and expensive in high-demand coastal cities. Yet Dr Moran claims – apparently seriously – that the affordability gap here is solely a function of excessive urban planning in the expensive cities: “…there is no indication that demand factors separate the highly unaffordable cities from the highly affordable cities”. Dr Moran also refuses to accept that structurally lower interest rates since the early-1990s recession have been the principal driver of higher home prices in Australia. That’s despite (former) RBA Governor Macfarlane last August explaining again that it’s as plain as the noses on our faces: “…why have the prices of the eight million houses in Australia basically doubled in the last decade? The answer… I think, is almost entirely on the demand side. Basically, because we returned to low inflation, interest rates were halved. People could now borrow, if they wished, twice as much. …The incentives were mainly tax incentives, plus a history of high inflation. So they borrowed the money and drove up house prices, so the whole stock of eight million houses basically doubled in price”. Having studiously ignored key facts that don’t suit his story, Dr Moran is left with an exaggerated sense of the potential for “fixing the fringes” to improve housing affordability. Sure, we should develop new suburbs on our city fringes as rapidly as is feasible – it will help to absorb our elevated level of immigration – but don’t hold your breath waiting for a big drop in city-average home prices. Important coastal cities are expensive everywhere. We’ll find over time that it’s much easier to make our capital cities larger than it is to make them affordable. If Australia’s population, average incomes and wealth all continue to rise, so too will average home prices in our coastal capitals – despite Dr Moran’s insistence that homes in America’s rust belt are cheap only because of inspired hands-off planning regimes.

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Peter Fray

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