Showing posts with label rorts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rorts. Show all posts

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Preying on the vulnerable the Centrelink way

The Guardian, 17 January 2018:

Centrelink has given companies accused of exploitation and misconduct direct access to welfare recipients’ money through its automated debit system.

The companies were granted access to the Centrepay system, which allows Centrelink to deduct money from welfare payments to pay approved businesses early.

The system is designed to ensure rent and power bills are paid by giving government-approved real estate agents and electricity retailers the first bite of social security payments.

But the federal government has long faced criticism for opening up Centrepay to household appliance rental companies, which rent out white goods, mobile phones, laptops and furniture.

A 2015 report from the corporate regulator found the sector was targeting Centrelink recipients and charging exorbitant prices, often more than five times the retail price of the leased goods – the equivalent of a 248% interest rate.

An independent review of Centrepay in 2013 warned the government that lax oversight was giving unscrupulous operators access to the system, raising the risk of exploitation.

More than four years on, those risks appear to still be materialising.

Guardian Australia has found at least four appliance rental companies were granted approval to use Centrepay, despite previously being punished by the corporate regulator or placed on binding agreements to rectify potential legal breaches.

One of the businesses, Amazing Rentals, continued to hold Centrepay approval for more than two years after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) raised concerns it had failed to comply with responsible lending obligations. Most of the customers of its Darwin store, including many Indigenous Australians, received government benefits as their only source of income.

The company was renting white goods to people who could not read the contracts and did not understand what they were signing up to.

The corporate regulator accepted an enforceable undertaking from the company in June 2015, which forced it to shut down the store for 12 months, refund customers,

“We had examples of consumers who were on disability pensions or Newstart allowance where they were literally running out of money at the end of the month because of the impact of the repayments that were being made for those consumer lease products,” Asic senior executive Michael Saadat told the ABC at the time.

Amazing Rentals was eventually stripped of Centrepay approval in September last year, about the same time it became embroiled in a massive data breach, which exposed 26,000 documents with the personal details of 4,000 people in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Other companies still approved for Centrepay include franchise Rent the Roo, which was fined $27,500 by Asic for breaching responsible lending laws in 2013; and Mr Rental Australia, which was found to have imposed a potentially unlawful early termination fee, and was forced by the regulator to refund about 1,560 consumers more than $300,000 in total.

Centrepay approval is also still active for The Rental Guys, a company found to have failed to meet responsible lending obligations to customers mainly from regional Indigenous communities, and not verifying their ability to make the rental payments. The company also placed vulnerable customers on new contracts that imposed higher fees and removed the right to own goods once the rental period was finished.

Rent-to-buy companies approved for the Centrepay system sign contracts with customers knowing they are living on welfare payments.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Water rorting continues in the Murray-Darling Basin aided and abetted by the NSW Nationals

And local government and commercial interests in the Murray-Darling Basin have the hide to cry that they are water deprived and should be allowed to dam and divert water from the Clarence River catchment until that coastal system is a pale shadow of its vibrant self.

The Guardian, 4 August 2017:

The New South Wales regional water minister, Niall Blair, has quietly granted himself the power to approve illegal floodplain works retrospectively.

A Wentworth Group scientist, Jamie Pittock, has accused the NSW government of actively undermining the Murray-Darling basin plan as revelations have continued about the state government’s management of the river system.

Since Four Corners report raised allegations of water theft and secret meetings between a senior NSW water bureaucrat and a small number of irrigators,Blair is under increasing pressure over his water responsibilities.

This followed Daily Telegraph reports that the Nationals MP had been urging his Liberal colleague, the environment minister, Gabrielle Upton, to change the Barwon-Darling water-sharing plan retrospectively to favour large irrigators. He said the change was needed because of an error in the rules.

It has now come to light that Blair gazetted a Barwon-Darling valley floodplain management plan which gives him power to approve flood works built illegally even if they do not comply with requirements prior to the plan.

Under clause 39 of the new Barwon-Darling valley plan, a flood work that does not comply can be approved if “in the minister’s opinion” it is for an access road, a supply channel, a stock refuge or an infrastructure protection work
A spokesman for WaterNSW said three relevant applications from the Barwon-Darling region had been received since the change but none had yet been approved.

The NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham called on the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to remove the water portfolio from the National party after the regulation changes came to light.

“This is disgraceful example of the National party giving away free water to their big irrigator mates,” Buckingham said. “Many of these areas are so flat that even a 10 to 20cm bank can divert a huge amount of water into an irrigation dam and away from natural waterways.

“It’s a massive gift of water to the big irrigators. If we want to recover the water in the future then taxpayer will have to hand over huge amounts of compensation for what were illegal constructions.”

A spokeswoman for Blair said the gazettal was a “significant legacy issue” required to create a process where unapproved works could be properly and transparently assessed. She said to be considered, works must not have been previously refused and would still need to be assessed under certain criteria.

“Supply channels are one of the types of existing works that clause 39 indicates that we will accept application for,” the spokeswoman said. “Just because they are existing, doesn’t mean that they will be approved, just that they can apply. This approach is being rolled out through all floodplain management plans.”

Pittock, an associate professor in the Fenner school of environment and society at the Australian National University, said the revelations showed NSW was systematically white-anting the Murray Darling plan.

“The ‘rule error’ and other questionable dealings between wealthy irrigators, government officials and politicians in NSW highlight how the intent of the basin plan can be frustrated by those hostile to its implementation at the state level,” he told Guardian Australia.

“Changes of regulations in NSW have allowed irrigators to take erstwhile environmental flows by allowing greater pump capacity and earlier extraction based on river heights such that commonwealth-purchased environmental water in Queensland in not ‘shepherded’ through New South Wales to the lower Murray.

“Consequently towns like Broken Hill, pastoralists and Aboriginal communities, as well as the environment, have been starved of water.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

How major electricity suppliers take advantage of rural and regional customers

This is what NSW Dept of Industry, Resources and Energy advises owners of roof top solar power previously covered by pre 31 December 2016 feed-in tariffs:
It is up to individual customers to decide what metering arrangement will best suit their property, system and budget. You may wish to refer to the fact sheet Small Scale Solar PV Generators.
Generally if you do not receive a feed-in tariff, or if your feed-in tariff is lower than the price you pay for electricity, you are likely to be better off with a net meter. Under net metering, electricity from a solar PV system is first used to meet any consumption that takes place at the time of the generation. This means that for each kilowatt hour you consume of your own generation, you save the retail price that would otherwise be paid for that consumption.
Customers are encouraged to contact their distributor or accredited service provider to discuss their metering options before making a final decision.
Endeavour Energy customer contact number 131 003
Ausgrid call centre number 131 535
Essential Energy contact number 13 23 91

The writer of this letter to the editor, published in the Clarence Valley Independent on  22 February 2017, appears to be currently exporting all his solar power to a residential energy supplier for a pitiful return.

This is occurring because the power supplier (which based on stated costing is likely to be Origin/Essential Energy) is refusing to install a net meter function for the solar power system because of alleged deficiencies in mobile coverage.

Mobile cover is required as the digital net meter in question is to be read remotely and, apparently existing NBN satellite or fixed wireless cover in the Braunstone area is not considered satisfactory by the energy company's representative.

I'm sure there are more than a few Northern Rivers residents in the same situation as Mr. Philipse and, I rather suspect that residential energy suppliers are quite content to have it continue that way. As the est. $18 cents per kwh hour net profit earned from a customer's rooftop solar power output by charging top price of 24.2 cents per kwh for that same solar power as residential supply back to that customer, is money for jam for these companies.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A topical tee shirt

Found on Twitter this week.....

This post is dedicated to Malcolm Bligh Turnbull's investment portfolio.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Clarence valley voice in a wider forum

Clarence valley resident Charles Lincoln hold strong views on how the Abbott government regards pensioners. Mr Lincoln voiced his opinion in a contribution to the letters section of The Sun Herald (January 19).

Pension fears

 We have returned the Conservatives to power and as pensioners it appears that we may have done the wrong thing, as we now find that this government has openly stated that the pensioners are rorting the system with regards to concessional rebates on council rates (''Retirees furious over rate rort claim'', January 12).

This concession has not been raised with regards to the cost of living adjustments for seven decades.

So if this concessional rebate is a rort, in the eyes of the Federal Government, does it mean that all of the other pensioner concessions such as chemist prescriptions, doctor visits, transport and many more are also rorts?

Pensioners and all self-funded retirees must watch closely to make sure that the concessions that they have at present are not further eroded to improve the bottom line of the government, because increases in pensions are only 28 per cent of the average wage and each time that the CPI is increased we get further behind. 

Charles Lincoln, Gulmarrad