Ever had the experience of a service provider sending you an email with the message, “Our records show your invoice payment is overdue – please disregard this if payment has been made or make immediate arrangements for settling the account.” Maybe the wording varies slightly, but we received three with the same theme in as many weeks, and my response has been, “We have sent you a cheque” which a mind given to suspicion would hear as that old cliche, “Your cheque is in the mail.”
That may be a time-honoured way of delaying a debt payment, but in our case it was true and in each example we received a receipt within a matter of days.
But that’s all about to end, courtesy of the Albanese government, as I found out recently when we were down to the last form in our cheque book. I remembered receiving a message from our bank stating that cheque books would no longer be issued automatically and we would have to contact them or visit a branch to order a new one.
So I get on the phone to our local branch only to hear a recorded message, “We are unable to take your call so please leave a brief message stating the nature of your enquiry and we will get back to you.” I tell them we want to order a new cheque book and leave a contact number.
No need to state which bank – suffice to say it recently reported a huge multi-billion dollar profit and a multi-million salary for their CEO for helping them achieve that by passing on to mortgagees the numerous interest rate rises since Labor took office.
Obviously they can’t afford enough staff to answer phone calls, but several hours later I receive a call from a woman who told me our joint account was no longer eligible for another cheque book. Some were, such as business accounts, but not ours.
What the #@!*? We have been loyal customers for many years, buying and selling various homes, including investment properties, never missing a loan repayment and now enjoying a mortgage-free retirement. But as a small cog in a giant financial machine, none of that counts when I tell her we may have to look at changing banks.
“Well, OK,” she says non-plussed.
I looked up terms and conditions of several other major banks whose websites seemed to indicate they still handled cheque accounts. The first two calls also were answered by recorded messages asking me to press buttons and tell an AI bot the reason for my call. When I finally got through to a woman (with the standard-issue foreign accent), she had difficulty understanding my inquiry and kept asking, “Do you have a cheque account?”
“Yes, but with another bank.” That finally got through: “Oh, well we can’t issue you with a new cheque account.”
Thanks, but no thanks. Finally, one of the smaller banks on my list answered my call immediately and the helpful young woman confirmed that yes, I could open a new cheque account now, but that option would end and no further cheque books would be issued later in the year.
She continued, “That’s because of the Labor government policy announced recently that cheques would be phased out.”
So that explains it. I must have missed that one when I was listening to Treasurer Jim Chalmers spruiking his “Wellbeing Budget” and how it is making life so much easier for 25 million Australians — this boast even as the cost of living skyrockets, led by power-price hikes, mortgage and rent increases, food, fuel and all the rest. An official statement from Dr. Jim confirmed the banks’ advice was correct:
The cheque system in Australia will wind down no later than 2030.
As part of the Strategic Plan for Australia’s Payments System released today, the Government has announced it will remove legislative and other requirements that entrench payment by cheques. We will also phase out government usage of cheques by the end of 2028.
As the use of cheques plummets and many banks and financial institutions stop issuing cheque books to new customers, it is important to manage this transition in an orderly and planned way.
The Government will work with industry to minimise adverse impacts to consumers and businesses and ensure vulnerable Australians have the assistance they need to switch to other payment methods…
In other words, the Labor Government wants us all to switch to online banking, direct debits or any other emerging digital banking format, and the banks are already hell-bent on forcing the changes on customers whether we like it or not.
Well I don’t. Millions of Australians have been notified some of their personal details have been accessed by hacks on Medibank Private, Optus and Latitude Financial. Bank scams are rife, so why make life easier for low life ripoff artists? According to accounting firm LDB,The latest ‘targeting scams’ report by the ACCC has revealed Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scams in 2022, with investment scams the highest loss category. The report compiled data from a number of government agencies and marked an 80 per cent increase in losses from 2021.
Investment scams comprised $1.5 billion of the total losses and there were more than 9,360 reports to Scamwatch regarding investment scams. ….Scammers are now much more sophisticated and more difficult to identify. Impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organisations are common tactics, as well as scam texts that can appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages. This means that now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam…
However, there is some good news for British residents. The UK government has introduced a world-first law to compel banks to compensate scam victims starting from next year, and our Finance Services Minister Stephen Jones is reportedly looking at similar legislation here. Naturally, our banks are strongly opposed to such a move, but as a determined Jones told the ABC, “ We’re definitely going to lift the bar and we’re definitely going to ensure the banks are accountable for much, much more.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one shaking my head and wondering where we are headed. Consider this techno talk from BankingToday.com explaining an initiative introduced by the Morrison government in 2019:
The government will provide A$26.9 million in 2023/24 for the Department of Finance and the Digital Transformation Agency to “design the policy and legislative foundations to transition to an economy-wide digital ID ecosystem.”
In September last year, the big banks agreed to work on a ConnectID trial, acting as identity providers. ConnectID will act as a digital identity exchange, connecting merchants with identity providers. In trial applications, the digital identification will replace the 100-point check and other ID requirements…
So what’s it all about, really all about? Are we steadily falling in step with pronouncements from powerful international agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, which some see as seeking a new far-reaching framework of state supervison of our lives, even of domination.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently announced a partnership with the EU to establish a Digital Health Certification Network “to deliver better health for all”. I think he omitted the word “control”. The WEF’s Dr Klaus Schwab says the COVID panicdemic provided the perfect opportunity to ‘build back better’, but some of us don’t want a New World Order and prefer things the way they are or, soon, were. We don’t want to see a dystopian future where, according to a recently removed post on its website, “You will own nothing and you will be happy.” That post, by the way, can still be read in full via the Wayback Machine internet archive.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has quit ruining nice suits by wading into the sea to convince us we’ll all be submerged by melting ice, now telling us “it’s an era of global boiling.” Right, better get our global digital ID’s to mark down our social credits if we don’t stop using fossil fuels while we continue to eat meat rather than crickets and grasshoppers.
But back to the banks. My wife visited our bank the other day and withdrew a sum of cash. The teller asked, “What do you plan to do with it”. (Yes, they have limits and conditions).
“Spend it,” she replied, thinking as those words passed her lips ‘while I’m still allowed’.
John Mikkelsen is a former editor of three Queensland regional newspapers, columnist, freelance writer and author of the Amazon Books memoir, Don’t Call Me Nev