Green Left Weekly's $250,000 Fighting Fund: Ripped off by the bank!

August 15, 2008

Which bank? Umm, the whole lot of them, actually. But let's start with "the bank", the Commonwealth Bank, because its profit report came out last week.

The good news (for the bank) is that it made a record $4.8 billion profit, 7% up from last year's record profit. Amid all the global turmoil from the made-in-the-USA global financial crisis, Australia's big banks seem to be doing well. But the bad news is that they are doing well at our expense.

The Commonwealth Bank's record profit comes despite the fact that it also announced a record bad debt account of $1.74 billion. This follows the earlier National Australia Bank and ANZ announcements of a combined bad debt write down of $2.1 billion.

So where did the profit come from? Remember those ever-increasing bank charges and fees? Remember the above Reserve Bank interest rate increases on mortgages? Well, all those came together to increase the Commonwealth Bank's revenue by 10% to $14.3 billion.

Last week, Reserve Bank assistant governor Philip Lowe said that Australian banks were now the most profitable in the world but they had no excuse to keep raising their mortgage rates since the Reserve Bank stopped raising its rates.

Doesn't this just prove that Australia's bankers are good at their job?

Only in the sense that thieves who steal billions are "good at their job", and muggers who set new muggings-per-day records, are "good at their job".

I know an aged pensioner who has a fit of rage every time he walks past a bank. "The gangster Al Capone once said: 'Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class'", he told me. And he spoke the truth.

Single aged pensioners are struggling on $277 a week and single unemployed on $57 a week less. Meanwhile a bank CEO get $33 million a year — the equivalent of 446 construction workers, 669 graduate teachers, 335 GPs, 108 prime ministers and more than a thousand pensioners!

The Reserve Bank's finger-wagging-with-a-smile at the big banks is not going to mean much. Another famous Al Capone quote sums it up: "You can get more with a nice word and a gun than you can with a nice word".

And we know who is holding the gun here.

Rage at such systematic robbery is understandable. But if this rage is not translated into collective political action, we are simply going to keep being systematically ripped off.

One good way to translate this rage into action is by helping keep alive and build the Green Left Weekly project. Last week, our subscription base began to rise — after a flat spell. You can help keep it rising by introducing Green Left Weekly to a friend, relative or workmate. At $10 for an introductory sub, you could even afford to give several of them a present of a Green Left subscription.

We were reminded how very important our subscribers are to us when a person rang up and asked to renew his subscription for a year "at the solidarity rate". Oops! Red with embarrassment, I told him that we hadn't thought of setting a solidarity subscription rate, though many regular buyers on the street pay the $3 "solidarity price" advertised on the cover. But it is a good idea. "Well, I'll just add $100 on top of the price of my subscription", he said.

Please make a donation to Green Left Weekly's $250,000 fighting fund for 2008. We have raised $130,950 through donations and numerous fundraisers (see calendar on page 23 for details of the next fundraising event near you) but we need your help to raise the remaining $119,050.

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