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Friday, December 31, 2010

Corporate thieves arise once more

The floods in northern Queensland have barely begun to recede in some areas yet we have already seen a regular post-disaster event occur: insurance companies reneging.

It has been reported in the press that insurance companies are already refusing to pay out for destruction of seafood factories in the Bundaberg region.

Why are insurance companies apparently the only part of the wider community that are allowed to contract for provision of a service only to renege in the face of wide-spread demand on realising that contract? They will undoubtedly resort to crying poor if questioned about this seemingly unlawful and regular stunt. We seem to see this in the wake of every large scale natural disaster.

Insurance companies are clearly just as unprincipled as the banks (hardly news to anyone who has had to deal with both). Whereas banks insist their outrageous fees, passing on more-than official rate rises along with refusals to pass on the entirety of any rate decreases, are necessary to just cover costs, the big four banks still manage to achieve literally multi-billion dollar profits each year. Insurance companies in turn like to cry foul when they are called on to honour their obligations in wake of a large-scale natural disaster, similarly protecting their profit margins.

When will we see a government that will actually do something about these corporate thieves?

Treasurer Wayne Swan’s proposals for the banking sector merely tinker at the edges and do not address the root cause – the unaccountability of banks to any but shareholders who benefit by their excesses. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey’s blustering rhetoric is all very well but he was full of the same bluster in a finance portfolio while part of the Howard government but still failed to do anything meaningful. Any questions raised about the insurance companies basically scamming people will be met with more of the same.

This begs the question of why do governments of any persuasion in Australia continually fail to address these issues properly. Could it be that the big players in the financial services sector simply donate too much to political party coffers, buying themselves protection? More rational answers are rather thin on the ground.

And that's my rant.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are you a Comsuper pensioner? Be afraid!

I thought it time for an update on my continuing saga over my invalidity pension.

My pension was finally reinstated. And, after furious efforts on my part and attempts by Comsuper to put me off including even resorting to outright lies, I was finally paid backpay that I was entitled to.

Through this ridiculous saga of Comsuper losing documents, failing to act on information repeatedly provided, promising the world but only delivering a couple of badly eroded pebbles from the Stuart Desert, I have lodged formal, detailed complaints. I received written confirmation of these being lodged and also received assurances of certain explanations being made and data being provided.

I received a formal response to it all yesterday. In short, because I have dealt with other people in the organisation, the entire thing has been wiped. Thanks for coming, now piss off.

This is an organisation that:
  • has repeatedly lost documentation provided to them - proven!
  • has thought it fair play to outright lie to me - proven!
  • routinely fails to return promised contact - proven!
  • does not supply Call Centre staff with the correct data regarding pensions paid - proven!
  • has computer systems that are unable to cope with someone working part-time, forcing them to manually calculate pensions each fortnight - proven!
  • promises to provide information but routinely and repeatedly fails to do so - proven!
And now, having gone through hell on wheels just to get my pension properly reinstated, Comsuper think it is quite fine to just blow off formal complaints with a single paragraph response that figuratively says 'hey - you got your pension back so piss off.'

This mob are in charge of literally billions of dollars of people's money. They are in charge of safeguarding those monies and with establishing a pension fund that will actually pay people their entitlements. Based on current performance, I wouldn't trust this lot to organise a trip to the public shithouse.

Are you a member of CSS, PSS, Defence Super etc? Then be afraid. Be very, very afraid. Because this lot will stuff you and your pensions up. They do not give a rat's arse about the financial and emotional stress they will cause you. They will refuse to do anything unless forced to it by someone shouting at them. Contrary to popular belief, I do not enjoy doing that. They will lose your records. They will willingly lie to you. And we are somehow supposed to be happy about leaving them in charge of our financial future???

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Very mixed feelings

I am still one very unhappy camper. However at the same time I learned a lesson in humility today, to remember that there is always someone worse off than yourself.

A dear friend of mine in the US has just been royally screwed by their Family Court system. She fell pregnant to a boyfriend at a young age. He promptly didn't want to know. She has had to raise their son by herself with zero support from Mr Deadbeat. Out of the blue he wants to start playing Happy Daddies. Then a court application to assume custody and guardianship. A hearing where he and his lawyer present a load of lies, accepted by the judge without the slightest evidence and now she has lost her child to a deadbeat who only recently was living on someone else's sofa. If I am feeling gutted by recent events, how can she be feeling???

I feel so utterly powerless in everything.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Can Comsuper be trusted? No.

I recently posted about some harsh lessons I learned to my cost about dealing with the regulatory authority, Comsuper, and payment of my invalidity pension. Things are still yet to be resolved with matters now reaching the simply ludicrous.

I am on invalidity paid through a superannuation fund under its early exit arrangements. I did not want to go onto invalidity. I was forced, kicking and screaming out of employment and left to my own devices, denied access to rental and housing assistance, healthcare concessions and more. I have consistently been conscientious in ensuring Comsuper have been advised promptly about any changes in my circumstances. That respect has not been repaid in kind. The chronic inefficiency of this department is simply staggering. Emails and faxes are not only just lost, they see fit to deny receiving them at all even if I can prove that they did. Even the front-line inquiry people do not have access to the correct information. I was repeatedly told that their record of payments was different to what I was saying I had received. I was told I was wrong even though I was directly quoting my bank statement. It turned out that these inquiry staff do not have access to the appropriate system which lists the correct information. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

Today’s developments include nonsense such as assurances that I have been sent email confirmation of various things which I most certainly have not received. The best one however is as follows.

From the outset I was advised that I have a generous earnings allowance of monies I am allowed to receive in excess of my pension before my pension is affected. I was in part-time paid employment from May 31st to October 20th this year. My total earnings were well short of this limit. Comsuper staff first of all claimed to know nothing about being allowed to earn any monies whatsoever in addition to this invalidity. Then the story changed – that while I am allowed to earn some extra money, this does not apply if that money is earned in paid employment. Comsuper staff then denied all knowledge of any materials being sent to me that stated what this earnings limit is.

Guess what I found a copy of – a letter from Comsuper dated September 1st, 2010, confirming the exact amount that I may earn, before my pension is affected. And guess who signed this letter? The same officer now denying I am allowed to earn these monies!

How’s that for a staggering load of crap.

I am owed what is to me, a lot of money. I have been offered restitution of $400! Now I can appeal their decision to a Superannuation Tribunal however I am not allowed to even lodge that application until 60 days after Comcare have provided a formal response to the matter. I have already been advised that this will not be provided to me this week. I leave for interstate this weekend. At least I am supposed to be – provided I can find the money somewhere to pay for the tickets, seeing as Comsuper have so far failed to make good on paying me monies that are clearly owed. I do not return to Canberra until late January. I have been assured that details of the calculations regarding the back-pay have already been supplied to me when I am yet to see them. I am unable to anything meaningful about the matter for literally months!

Bear in mind, I am not talking about trying to get paid damages or some other sort of compensation. I am just trying to get paid my pension! Of course if I take things to the civil courts rather than the Tribunal, I can seek more than just the monies owed but costs and even potentially damages. But all I want is simply what I am owed in my pension, nothing more.

I think I would be justified in refusing to inform Comsuper of any future changes to my financial situation where that may to be my detriment.

Clearly Comsuper cannot be trusted to act accurately or even honestly.

This is my rant, but on this occasion it ain’t finished yet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A harsh lesson about superannuation

Sadly, life seems to be a series of harsh lessons.

Through no fault of mine, I was forced out of the workplace and onto an invalidity pension paid by Comsuper who managed my pension fund. At the end of May, I commenced part-time work. Like a conscientious thing, the following day, having signed my work contract, I emailed a copy of the relevant part of that contract through to Comsuper, advising them of my change of circumstances.

Still being conscientious, having heard nothing from them by September, I contacted Comsuper again, this time by telephone. I was now advised that they had no record of any such information being received from me. Fortunately I was able to forward a copy of that earlier advice, confirming that I had made all reasonable attempts to keep them advised of such changes. However it took several attempts before being able to get that email through. I ended up having one of their staff stay on the telephone with me until, finally, an email does get through. What happened to the other attempts is unknown. All I know is that they did NOT bounce.

Eventually, my pension was reduced.

On October 16, I was advised that my services were being dispensed with by that employer. So I telephoned Comsuper to check what they needed from me to reinstate that pension. On being advised that they needed details of that cessation, it was agreed that I would fax this information through to them, as I could hardly afford a repeat performance from when I first tried to alert them to a change of my status. I faxed that letter through with a covering note explaining what it was about. I then telephoned Comsuper yet again to confirm that they had received it.

All seems pretty straight forward, doesn't it. But here is where things start getting really screwy.

A couple of weeks later, I noticed that I was paid both the partial pension plus a second, much larger amount. Ahaa, I thought to myself. That must be the backpay so things have all been sorted.

Last week I noticed that my bank account balance seemed much lower than it should have been. I examined more closely. Not only had Comsuper continued paying me only a half-pension, the latest one had been inexplicably decreased yet further.

I telephone Comsuper that Thursday. Nobody is able to make sense of the situation. They even disputed the actual amounts that I had been paid. However I was assured that this matter would be placed in the hands of the pension administration area who would contact me further the following day. I advised that I was heading interstate the following Tuesday, the 7th, and would appreciate this being sorted out before then.

The next day, Friday December 3, not having heard anything from Comsuper by lunchtime, I telephoned yet again. Initially I was told that due to an overwhelming number of calls, all they could do was take details for someone to call me back later. I explained the situation and I was transferred to someone in the pensions area. I was now told that I had not provided any such information about cessation of my employment. Yet again there was more disputing the actual amounts I had been paid. The fact that I was quoting things direct from my bank statement didn't seem to cut much ice with this man. To my amazement, he even claimed no record existed of any communications from Comsuper to me last September about the reduction of my pension. Never mind the fact that I had previously obtained electronic copies of same from them. However this man, named 'Luke', stated all they needed was an email from me confirming my change in circumstance and he would have this immediately forwarded to the administration area for actioning on the Monday. It was now that he admitted the real reason for their inability to actually do anything that Friday. It was not a matter of an excessive number of telephone calls. Most of their staff were in fact away at a Christmas Party. So in point of fact, they were telling blatant lies.

I emailed them as requested, noting in the subject line 'attention Luke' as requested and also forwarded a copy of the email containing some of their earlier correspondence that Luke claimed did not exist.

Come Monday, I decide to telephone yet again and see what is going on. And yet again, I was told that there was no record of my having contacted them last Friday. Getting increasingly frustrated I went through my story yet again. I was assured that this was to be handled by the admin area that day and a return telephone call promised that day. However I pointed out that I was going to be in a research library for a while where mobile phones were banned. I was assured that this had been noted.

Well, as you might have guessed by now, when I got out of that library around 4pm, I found a telephone message had been left at 3:30pm, when I was not available (remembering I had already told them I would not be available). So I return that call to the number advised in said message. No answer. So I call the main line and ask for the admin area. I now find myself having to go through the entire story yet again. They advise that 'Katherine' who had called me, was no longer in the office. I was further advised that nobody else would be able to assist me and I needed to speak to Katherine and only Katherine. Yet another return telephone call is promised.

I point out, yet again, that I was departing for inter-state first thing the following morning. I was assured that Katherine would be calling me at 8:30 am the following morning.

So I manage at very short notice to change the travel arrangements.

To my surprise, Katherine did indeed call me at 8:30 Tuesday morning (yesterday). Except we were now back to square one as she insisted that I was actually in paid employment and the pension I was receiving reflected the necessary reduction for that.

I admit to losing it a bit then. She confirmed that there was nothing on file to even show that I had been in contact with them last Friday, let alone details of my emails that day about this matter. Katherine now assured me that they would recalculate things and process ASAP. Except that as it takes three working days for a payment to be processed through the banking system, I would not get paid before next week.

"So what am I supposed to live on in the mean time?"

She did not have an answer for that.

I stated that I would be making a formal complaint about their actions and Katherine stated she would email me the necessary contact details. An email dated Dec 7, 9:09am, was indeed sent to me by Katherine, containing contact details for the complaints area. The email also included the following statement:

I have contacted invalidity so they can recalculate your benefit for you again. I have also requested that your arrears be paid ASAP.

Yet that is not all that occurred in this telephone call with Katherine. She also revealed the following staggering snippets of information:
  1. that the information available on their system to people answering queries, is not the correct information about what amounts one is actually paid - hence Comsuper staff disputing with me the details of my payments received;
  2. that their systems cannot cope with a pensioner returning to part-time employment and therefore they need to manually calculate and process each payment for each pensioner in that situation;
  3. the mysterious one-off payment made to me was not backpay as I had thought but merely an inexplicable overpayment made by Comsuper; and
  4. the latest reduction in my pension was because their manual calculations had been wrong and they had not been deducting enough tax.

In the meantime, before departing interstate, I telephoned the complaints area direct to express my dissatisfaction. I was assured of immediate investigation.

An email arrived today from the complaints area, confirming yet again that there was no record of any contact from me about the ceasing of my employment other than a note on file that I had said I would be forwarding the evidence.

On my return to Canberra, I shall be searching my records and taking a copy of the materials I faxed to them along with a copy of the fax header and delivering it in person, demanding an apology.

The complaints response however gets even better. It included the following statement.

In order to progress reinstatement of your full pension evidence is required from your employer stating you have ceased work. On receipt of this documentation the Invalidity Assessment team will approve reinstatement of your full pension and calculate the arrears owing to you which will be paid to you with the full pension.

Hold on a moment. I offered to get a copy of that letter scanned and sent to them last Friday, only to be told that they DID NOT need it, that just a confirmatory email was required from me. Yet more incorrect information being disseminated and yet more time being wasted in resolving this matter.

Don't go away just yet - things get even better. I am now told that the turnaround time for an urgent payment to a credit union is 4 days. So a regular thing takes three days, but an urgent one takes four???

Here is a reality check. It does NOT take three and four days to process things through banking systems, including going to a credit union account. My former public service employer, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, had no difficulty in arranging over-night corrections to one's pay. In that most recent part-time employment, I was paying the organisation's bills electronically not to mention the staff pays. These did not take three and four days to go through but no more than two!

So what are the harsh lessons that I have learned?
  1. if you are dealing with Comsuper, DO NOT entrust them with either email or fax - it seems that registered mail may be the only safe way to get anything to them;
  2. expect Comsuper to routinely lose things, failing to put them on file, entirely disregarding their legislative obligations to maintain detailed and accurate files;
  3. never expect to get the same information from any two staff at Comcare - I seem to get as many different stories as the number of different staff I talk to, and so far, none of them seem to have any of it right;
  4. if you are experiencing financial hardship because of their fuck-ups, don't expect much sympathy from them, just yet more stonewalling.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Warnie - be a man and suck it up!

Jonathan Philip Agnew

What is this nonsense between ex-cricketer Shane Warne and commentator Johnathon Agnew?

As I understand things, Warne offered Aggers a bet at the start of the tour on which bowler would take the most wickets for the Australia v England Test Series. Warne took Aussie Nathan Hauritz and Aggers selected the Pom quick, Steven Finn. The loser was to take the winner for a meal at a restaurant of their choice. However once Hauritz was left out of the team for the First Test, Warne has apparently bailed on the bet.

Fair suck of the sav, Warnie. If you make a bet, you take the rough with the smooth and don't go changing conditions after the fact to suit yourself. By Warnie's apparent logic, you should be able to bet on a horse race but if your nag fails to get a good jump from the gate, you go and ask the bookie for your money back as your horse is now unlikely to win. Yeah. Like that's going to happen.

Come on, Warnie. Stop acting like an idiot and take it like a man rather than a whiny six-year old.

Here endeth the rant.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Thieves Gather

First up, a correction.

In my wrath the other day, I incorrectly stated that the Commonwealth Bank had raised its base variable interest rate by 0.45% more than the recent Reserve Bank increase. In point of fact, the CBA's total increase was 0.45%. But that is still a long way over the actual RBA increase.

All of the Big Four Thieves have now increased their base rates considerably more than the recent RBA increase. They continue to argue that this is a result of the cost of raising funds to lend out.

Give me a damn break. The F.B.T. are all making literally multi-billion dollar profits. They are purely and simply profit-gouging.

Blubberguts Joe Hockey, Shadow Treasurer, is naturally blaming the Gillard government for this, claiming it to be proof that they are useless, pathetic etc etc. OK Joe - just exactly what do you expect them to do? The Gillard goverment is operating under the same conditions that your lot did. So you would not have been any more successful than Gillard and co. And don't forget that in your time as a junior finance minister, you were no more successful in pulling banks into order despite your public 'putting them on notice'.

It is interesting to note that of comparable economies, Germany is the only one that similarly allows banks to have variable interest contracts ie charge what they want, when they want. The US, Japan, Korea, Canada, Spain, France and Holland - those countries do not allow banks to engage in this variable rate profit gouging. The Brits only allow it to happen in certain circumstances.

The reality is that both main political flavours have failed the Australian society at large by creating this monster and refusing to do anything to pull it back into line.

With the mining industry making massive profits as a result of high commodity prices, the Labour government wanted to introduce a super-profits tax on the miners. How about penalising the banks for their making excessive profits that are being taken straight out of the pockets of ordinary Australian consumers, not taken from foreign multinationals who are purchasing minerals etc. Of course this would need to be done with care to avoid them simply passing that straight on to consumers.

How about a massive fine per basis point above rate increases that the banks institute? Make it non-tax deductible. And give the ACCC or another authority the power to monitor and implement further retrospective major fines for any increases in charges beyond reasonable CPI-related increases in fees. Then another whacking great fine for every basis point that banks fail to pass on when prime rates are reduced by the RBA.

These thieving bastards MUST be brought into line. This profit-gouging CANNOT be allowed to continue.

I reiterate a statement I have made before: the objective of de-regulating the banking industry was not intended as a free ride for profit gouging.

C'mon Ms Gillard - give us something positive in response to this unconscionable behaviour. And you too, Blubberguts Hockey - quit grandstanding and offer up some positive suggestions.

And that's my rant.

Calling all pedophiles

This is simply unbelievable - except that it has in fact actually happened.

Amazon are selling an ebook entitled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct.

Unbelievable. Un-be-fucking-lievable. But it gets worse. Amazon have defended their selling this piece of filth. Don't believe me? Here's the report.

What in the blue blazes of hell is Amazon thinking about? There is the possibility that it is a sting operation, but all the same... Amazon even agree to have their name associated with this garbage?

Not happy, Jan. Not bloodywell happy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Chief Thief Speaks!

From the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph:

Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris has conceded his bank’s mammoth 0.45 per cent interest rate rise will cost some of his customers their homes, a reality he says causes him immense angst.

But in defence of his bank’s Melbourne Cup Day rise, Sir Ralph said it was better to see “a few” foreclosures than have an economy hamstrung by a low-profit banking system.

In an exclusive interview yesterday, the $16.2 million a year man also urged customers feeling mortgage stress to contact the bank and seek temporary relief from their monthly payments.

On what planet did the CBA find this dipshit? Let us review a few facts:
1. A bank is admitting that its actions will be forcing people out of their homes;
2. Since when is making multi-billion dollar profits, a low-profit banking system?
3. Since when would failing to increase rates 0.45% more than the last Reserve Bank increase, hamstring the Australian economy?
4. What the fuck does someone on $16.5 million a year know about the reality of making ends meet?
5. What ‘temporary relief’ will the CBA be giving? One thing is sure as shit after breakfast – they will be making sure mortgagees catch up any payments and don’t forget that any slackening on making your mortgage payment just increases the amount of interest being generated on the balance, to the bank's benefit of course.

How much more is it going to take before our piss-weak governments will act on these thieving bastards?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Legalised Theft!

Let’s face it. The big four main Australian banks have really been copping it of late. A senior industry representative (unfortunately I cannot now locate the reference for just which of the Big Four Thieves he was representing) has claimed this is just populist bank-bashing. In other words, there isn’t really anything in it.

What a load of crap.

I am an ex-banker. It has been years since I got out but even back then they were rapacious in their fee-gouging and things have gotten considerably worse.

The BFT have decided that they need to back off a bit. They have announced intentions to remove a fee. But exactly what fee are they proposing to do without? Answer: the fee for early mortgage loan exit. This is supposed to be a reduction on the impost on Australians who are already paying ludicrous levels of bank fees. What’s more, this is somehow supposed to increase competition in the industry. What utter A-grade crap!

Oh give me a frigging break. Just how many people are charged that particular fee? What proportion of their overall fee base does this actually represent? Infinitesimal, that’s what.

This is a nothing response. The Big Four Thieves will continue to gouge the Australian public to the tune of multi-billion dollar profits. It is basically legalised theft.

When the banking industry was de-regulated, the intention was not to create an oligopoly that seemingly answers to nobody other than shareholders, and what shareholders are going to be complaining about their dividends from multi-billion dollar profits? Other industries had regulation forced on them. When will our government act in the interests of all Australians and introduce appropriate regulation to make the banks act in an economically and socially responsible manner?

And that's my rant.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I HATE agreeing with Joe Hockey

If there is one thing that I really, REALLY, hate, is being forced to find myself on the same side of an argument as the likes of Joe Hockey. But, like Hockey, I find the behaviour of the major Australian banks simply unconscionable. However it should also be remembered that back when Hockey was a junior finance spokesman, he publicly put the banks ‘on notice’. The reality of course is that they didn’t take any notice of him then and shall be taken even less notice of him now.

It must be remembered that the major Australian banks are making quite literally billions per year in profits. These profits come largely from the seemingly never-ending scale of fees being introduced. The basic operations are traditionally funded by the difference between interest received and interest paid to depositors. But for the last couple of years the banks claim that the cost of raising funds is so high now that they cannot afford to pass on the full extent of any cuts interest rates by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Yet, just as the oil companies play silly buggers with petrol prices at the pump, the banks are equally as quick to pass on the entirety of any increase in interest rates. Until now that is. Now that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has passed increased rates by more than the latest rate increase by the RBA.

The bottom line is that the banks are allowed to get away with such behaviour for several reasons. Deregulation of the banking industry years ago, freed the banks from the last of such regulation that could have controlled such behaviour. The Commonwealth Bank used to be a publicly-owned asset (note – contrary to public perception, CBA staff were not public servants as they were not paid from the public purse). However following the privatisation of the CBA, like all the other banks, the CBA has to look after the interests of and respond to shareholders. Thus the minor curbing effect the CBA used to have on the market is now gone. Finally, government has absolutely no power to force the banks into line.

Sure, there is plenty of rhetoric, but the Coalition proved unable to stop the banks (Malcolm Turnbull’s boast of 2008 that the banks were scared of them has been proven the load of shite that anyone with half a brain knew it to be). The current Labour government seems unable to do so either.

It must not be forgotten that the recent Global Financial Crisis was caused by a poorly regulated banking sector. That Australia came through the GFC in pretty good shape was no thanks to the Australian banking sector. As the banks have now well and truely shown themselves to be the school ground bullies we all suspected they were, the time has come to really draw a line in the sand. While other sectors were being forced into greater regulation of their activities, the banks were given less.

What is needed now is a re-introduction of a degree of regulation. Please note that I am not advocating governmental control of interest rates that was the logical extenstion of Hockey’s recent public announcements. However legislating that banks are not allowed to exceed the prime rates as determined by the RBA is not an unreasonable thing. Legislation forcing them to pass on all of any rate reductions in prime is similarly reasonable.

Clearly the banks are not prepared to act in a socially and economically acceptable manner, therefore the school principal needs to step in.

As I said, I really hate being on the same side of an issue as Joe Hockey, but in this instance his basic principle was right on the money.

And that’s my rant.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning the Koran?

It beggars belief that a so-called Christian pastor in the USA is going to hold a bonfire, burning copies of the Koran, supposedly to remember the Sept 11 attacks.

Exactly how is that going to achieve anything positive? All it will do is further inflame the very people on both sides who need little incentive to cause trouble as it is. Did militant extremists of the Islamic faith commit an atrocity in the attack on the World Trade Centre? Yes. Should that be condoned by any sane, rational person? No. But how does attacking the entire Islamic faith by burning the Koran do anything other than stir up more bigotry and intolerance?

Intolerance. That is what lies at the heart of this matter. This stunt is saying 'the terrorists were Islamic extremists, therefore all of Islam is to be reviled.' And these are Christians behind this stunt? What is this - a return to the values of the medieval Crusades? I suggest this pastor go and have a closer read of Christ's teachings in the New Testament.

here is a question for these redneck, right-wing extremists in the USA - what about those Muslims have have aided the War on Terror, or whatever we are supposed to be calling it these days?

A friend of mine is unashamed of her Sunni Islamic faith. She is from Iraq. "Uh oh," the redneck ratbags will be already thinking. "She is an Iraqi Muslim from the same sect as Sadam Hussein - she must be a bad one.

A reality check: my friend's father was an opponent of Hussein's and was murdered for his trouble; my friend worked as an interpreter for the US troops invading Iraq to topple Hussein; my friend was then forced to leave her homeland due to the death threats she received from Hussein's die-hard supporters. Did the USA do anything to repay her support? Nope.

A thoroughly modern and independent person, not to mention being a talented poet, my friend was persecuted again on her return. She refused to wear the burka because there is no basis for it in the Koran. She believes she should be allowed to leave the house without having to be accompanied by a male member of the family. Ironically, she did enjoy those 'freedoms' during the Hussein days. But with the conservative Shi'ite faction now largely in control, she was forced to leave her homeland yet again.

According to these right-wing ratbags in the US, my friend is on the Islamic faith and is therefore 'bad'. She is to be lumped in with the rest of of the Islamic world and symbolically burned by burning the Koran. Yet is my friend somehow a one-off? I very much doubt it.

Have any of these idiots given any thought to the idea that such a stunt could just encourage the militants and the moderates together in a unified front: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Should the events at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon be simply forgotten? No. Thousands of innocents were killed and rescue workers are developing all sorts of health problems from their exposure to all sorts of materials in the rubble. But is this blatant agitation of hate even remotely warranted? NO.

All this really demonstrates is the power of far-right conservatives have over so much of the political agenda in the USA. Sadly, Australia has its own right-wing elements determinedly heading in the same direction, forming a bloc of gross intolerance that is every bit as bad as the extremists they claim to e opposing.

That's my rant.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't ask Borders for anything!

It is a general occurrence in business that if a store does not have a particular stock item available, said store will make at least some attempt to order it in. That is, unless it is the Borders chain.

A while ago I made inquiries about a particular title listed in their database. By pure chance, it was that store's manager who assisted me at that time. He confirmed that they did not have it in stock, despite it being a recent release by a major publisher. However he assured me that they could order it in for me when I was ready and gave me a coded discount card towards the purchase as an apology for not having it in stock. Because he made the attempt and offered me a discount, I did not go looking for it anywhere else.

Today I attempted to redeem that discount voucher in ordering said title. Only now I was told that Borders do not order anything from anyone, but only move stock between stores. Obviously that is a load of codswallop else they would soon have quite empty stores. Or do they have fairies in the bottom of the garden who magic stock in at night while everyone is asleep? Perhaps they rely on publishers and distributors being psychic?

I was momentarily dumbfounded. You DON'T order stock for customers???

The 'assistant' (what an oxymoron as they did anything but assist me) confirmed it - no, they do not order anything for anyone. I was instead basically told to go online and sort it out for myself.

Was I trying to order a rare seventeenth century manuscript or a copy of Mein Kampf, translated into Swahili and printed on elephant hide? Nope, just an anthology from a major publisher that is already in their database.

A few minutes ago I lodged a complaint about this experience on their website. An automated response came rocketing back, thanking me for my inquiry and informing me that my nearest store could assist with information about pricing and availability. Uh uh - no they don't. Because that means actually looking it up and they no longer provide such an exotic service.

A book store that refuses to help a customer obtain a book? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's the deal, Danny?

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of boxing. I freely admit that it speaks to something primeval in me, not to mention admiring the skill, strength, guts and stamina that make up a successful fighter. However boxing has long had a reputation of shady dealings, arising from dodgy things in the past like fixed matches.

The future of boxing in Australia, at least, has been dealt a telling blow.

Last night saw a title fight between IBO cruiserweight title holder, Danny Green and Paul Briggs. The fight was mired in controversy from the outset with it being banned in New South Wales. Briggs was returning to the ring after a three year layoff and NSW authorities deemed him medically unfit to take part. Authorities in Western Australia took a different view, claiming that the medical scans they viewed show no reason to disallow the fight.

Less than thirty seconds in to the fight, Green’s glove little more than brushed Briggs’s head. But Briggs went staggering down, to be counted out with the win on a Technical Knock Out going to Green.

The crowd present were far from impressed, pelting Briggs and his minders with pretty much everything they could lay their hands on. Back in the ring, Green took the microphone amidst loud boos from the crowd. But Green got them somewhat back onside by shouting defiance in the ring, describing Briggs as ‘less than a canine’. He seemed genuine in his anger.

Things have taken a decidedly murky turn today.

For a start, after his apparent anger in the ring last night against Briggs, today Green has come out claiming that he did strike a blow that legitimately hurt Briggs. Having repeatedly seen the blow in slow motion, I find that decidedly hard to believe.

The really concerning thing however, is what has now been revealed by sports betting agencies. A sudden major betting splurge came out on a first round knockout. TAB Sportsbet smelled a rat and suspended betting. Today, that agency announced that it will be refunding money to people who lost on the fight. That is the first time I have ever heard of bookies refunding money like that!

There is yet another issue. This was a title fight for an international title belt. So just how does someone who has not fought for over three years, get a first-up crack at a title shot? What was this – a bad (worse?) version of Rocky?

The evening’s fights were put together and promoted by Green’s own promotion company which makes things look even more suspect.

Some big names from Australia’s boxing past have made some telling comments today. Legendary trainer, Johnny Lewis, described Australian boxing as being ‘raped’ last night, saying the punch that put Briggs down, wouldn’t have dented a Sao (a brittle Australian dry biscuit/cookie). Multiple title holder, Jeff Fenech, was similarly unimpressed, saying it was shameful and describing Green as getting what he paid for. “He paid for a knock-out win.”

The final, telling word for the moment came from Johnny Lewis. This stalwart of Australian boxing now says he would rather encourage youngsters to go and play football instead.

To butcher Shakespeare, something stinks in Denmark, my friends – worse than my socks in summertime.

Abbott losing race to a non-starter?

My oh my. How interesting and embarressing are the latest polls in the Australian election race.

Firstly, new Prime Minister Julie Gillard has an approval rating of 52% over the man she deposed, Kevin Rudd (21%). That was a surprise.

How much would Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, like to have a lead like that? But the same poll showed that Abbott, with an approval rating of only 24% is actually less popular than the man he knifed in the back, Malcolm Turnbull with 29%. Abbott ties for second place with the man that I confidently expect will eventually be putting himself forward as the ‘saviour’ of the Liberal Party, Joe Hockey.

This is simply priceless – Tony Abbott is coming second to a man who, when he was leader, ran the approval ratings down practically into negative figures!

The Mad Monk clearly is the Weakest Link, so get off our fecking island!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chuck ruins Fromelles ceremony for me

I began drafting this post while watching 'Remembering Fromelles'. For those outside Australia and England, Fromelles was the first action that Australian troops took part in on the Western Front, World War 1, accompanied by a lesser force of British troops.

I have previously posted about the events of Fromelles.

Many of the dead were not recovered, being left behind in the German lines after the attack failed. The Germans, on re-taking their lines, buried the Allied soldiers they found there, in a mass grave.

The location of that grave was missed in the years after the War when the War Graves Commission were relocating other such remains to War Graves Cemeteries. It remained unknown until the efforts of amateur Australian archaeologists, particularly those of Lambis Englezos, who would not rest until the site was researched and excavated. Many of those remains were now identified and moved to a newly commissioned War Cemetary.

The last set of remains to be interred were those of an unknown soldier on the 94th anniversary of that disastrous battle (the brainchild of a British General who was as happy to slaughter 'colonial' troops as he was his own). That single coffin was placed on a restored WW1 horse-drawn carriage and moved on its last short journey to the new cemetery.

Along that short trip, groups of soldiers fell in behind the carriage, forming a procession.

Now here is where I get cranky. Near the eventual head of that procession was Prince Charles, his chest resplendent with all his medals for doing nothing during a brief peacetime service in the forces. I said the procession fell into step behind the carriage - all except Charlie Boy that is. He managed to be entirely out-of-step with everyone else. Striding out next to him was Australia's Governor General and she had no difficulty managing to march in step, but not our Chaz. Then the procession moved into slow-time, admittedly not always the easiest pace to do. But by now Prince Pratt looked like he was stoned while on a country ramble, gawking at the scenery, his hat flopping around in his hand.

Frankly, Chuck, if you couldn't be arsed even pretending to show a modicum of respect to both your countrymen and mine, then, please, just fuck off (yep - I am seriously pissed off).

And that, ladies and gents, is theoretically our next head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, blah blah blah. If ever there was a need for an argument for an Australian Republic, look no further than the heir to the throne: all the brains of a maggot but not nearly as good looking.

reality elections

Time check please: 9:37 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, called an election on the weekend. Most pundits were suggesting it would be August 28 which would permit some days for those not currently on the electoral role to get on there. Instead, the poll has been called for August 21. To help those not on the electoral roll a chance to get that sorted, offices of the Australian Electoral Commission were open until 8pm.

So perhaps someone could tell me why, more than an hour-and-a-half after the AEC offices had closed the doors on those extended hours, television stations are still advertising those extended hours. Now unless commercial television stations have suddenly turned into charities, this extra television advertising isn't being provided for nothing. Just what is being gained by paying for television advertising that informs people that they have actually missed their chance for that last minute registering on the electoral roll?

On the subject of the election, rather than the usual boredom of interminable advertisments, telling us how wonderful one party is and how terrible the others all are, accompanied by footage of smiling pollies wandering the streets, shaking hands with the elderly, kissing babies and all the other stuff that they wouldn't be caught dead doing any other time, how about we spice things up for a change. Let's run our election like a reality television program.

Sorry contestants - this week Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Wayne Swan - you're all in the elimination round. Your task will be to produce a convincing line of spin about why politicians do not get enough allowances, while baking a souffle and changing the baby's nappies. Whoops - sorry Tony - your souffle is as flat as your policies, wearing Speedos detracted from your presentation and you ended up with baby shit all over your face. You ARE the weakest link, you're fired, leave the fecking island right now, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.

Surely that would be an improvement on the usual?

UPDATE - Just to make me look like a total dick, their hours have now been extended to Thursday.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Live longer? Or help us all live better?

Today I heard an interview with one of the founders of the Methuselah Foundation.

I had never heard of this foundation before and was surprised to learn that their interest is in extending human life spans.

It was admittedly interesting to hear that their research has produced mice with lifespans increased by 20 percent and more. However consider that in human terms. With average western lifespans in the region of 72 years (it varies from country to country and by gender) that means an increased lifespan of at least 14 years. Multiply that across an entire population, even one as relatively small as Australia's (21 million) and you have a recipe for a major disaster.

Think about this for a moment. Is there going to be a corresponding fall in birthrates? Pretty unlikely. Yet with a fall in death rates as a result of across-the-board extension in lifespans, the current world problem of over-population is only going to continue to worsen. That means a huge economic impact on ever increasing number of older people on welfare through aged pensions etc. In a country like Australia with an aging population, this would be economic bad news to put it mildly.

An even greater concern is that of the impact on our environment. Despite all the awareness being raised about the severe impact humanity has had on our world environment, extending lifespans along with the current ever-increasing birthrates of a continually expanding means a disastrous increased demand on not just scarce resources but reducing resources.

Bear in mind, we are not talking about research to combat disease but simply to straight out extend lifespans beyond what we currently enjoy.

Now let us consider the practicalities of such a research outcome. Are the results going to be readily available to those in poorer and less-developed countries? Or is it the more affluent countries that are going to be able to reap the benefits? I think it rather obvious that it will be the latter thus driving that gap between affluence and poverty even wider.

Is there anything really wrong with accepting that eventually all of us come to the end of the road? Why not instead devote that research effort to solving the problems of health, environment, over-population and poverty?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm not complaining, but...

After the joy, no - the thrills, no the sheer frigging hysteria of finding out I have a decent crack at a 'real' job once more (interview next Monday - stay tuned), things have returned to the mundane ordinary.

Jessica Simpson still refuses to respond to my marriage proposals. Don't know what her problem is. Like, what girl wouldn't be jumping at the chance at life in an occasionally dry hole with an almost-employable, broken down, wannabe writing hack?

Tony Abbott has come out and admitted what we all flipping knew - that you can't believe what he is gibbering about anyway. Including those promises not to wear Budgie Smugglers again. Good on ya, Dumbo.

After being invited to be a guest blogger at another site (was told to sod off over the paying blogging job, but fine and dandy about asking me to do freebie ones), I have submitted a magnus opus featuring an all-star cast including Muffy the Monster Molesterer, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick, Speed and Dirty Harry, only to have a test reader say she didn't get it. Bloody women, can't live with 'em, can't chomp 'em up for dog food.

Strangely enough, Tyra Banks has joined Jessica in stubbornly ignoring my marriage proposals. I mean, like, come on, surely one of you can be conned, eventually, one day, maybe?

My pants are too frigging tight. My hair is too frigging grey. And I have a pimple on my hairy arse. And why is it that while the hair on your head starts disappearing, great frigging tufts of it start poking out everywhere else that you don't frigging want it? Like, was it really necessary to design a male human nose that after age 40 decides it simply must sprout things like jungle vines from the nostrils?

Not that I'm complaining or anything.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What an incredibly small world!

I have had some contact with the Australian War Memorial in recent times about potentially writing for one of their publications. Earlier today that correspondence began discussing Australians who flew with the RAF in World War 2. I mentioned that a cousin of my grandmother's was with the RAF's elite Pathfinder squadron but his Lancaster bomber was shot down over Germany.

It turns out that my contact is currently doing an article about the Pathfinder squadron and asked me what my relative's name was and what squadron he was with. I could only supply the name but had no idea of anything more about my great-cousin's war service. My contact did a quick bit of looking out of interest and came back with a rather startling piece of news.

He was talking to one of the other staff at the memorial recently. That other staff member had also mentioned that his grandfather flew with the Pathfinder squadron and was also shot down. A quick bit of research later and my contact had established that this other chap's grandfather was the pilot of the same Lancaster that my great-cousin served in.

My grandmother and extended family had made inquiries after the war but never established what had actually happened to my great-cousin. It now appears that there is documentation in the National Archives of Australia about the crash and where the flight crew are buried in Germany. I shall be researching that further quite soon.

The picture above is of the Lancaster bomber 'G George' that forms part of the collection at the Australian War Memorial and worth a look at. This is much the same plane that my great-cousin and this other chap's grandfather were flying in over Germany in 1943.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recycling isn't necessarily always good

So now we have The Mad Monk's (aka Tony Abbott) reply to the Budget. High on his list is a cut to the public service. Specifically, he states that they will not be sacking people, but instead losing 6,000 people per year by natural attrition through a recruitment freeze.

Now hold on there a moment, Jug Ears. We have heard something like this before. Back in 1996, on the day of the election, the Liberals ran full-page ads in The Canberra Times which set out a number of 'promises' it was making to members of the Australian Public Service. This included a very precisely worded assurance that staff numbers would be cut via natural attrition over the next two years. Yet almost as soon as Johnny 'Eyebrows' Howard assumed office, across the board retrenchment of thousands of public servants commenced. Tens of thousands of jobs were lost. So much for the reassurances of the use of 'natural attrition'. And now The Mad Monk expects us to believe the same nonsense all over again.

What made that 1996-onwards position even worse, was then-Treasurer, Peter Costello, coming out afterward and saving that the loss of all of these jobs in Canberra and the heartache and difficulty it caused to many thousands of families across Australia, was a good thing. I would hate to see what he called a bad thing.

Adding to the hypocrisy of the new Liberal position is that, just as widely predicted, we see the essential elements of Work Choices rearing their ugly heads again. So much for those assurances that Work Choices was gone.

For some reason, the Liberals are seemingly incapable of coming up with a single original idea these days but just constant recycling of John Howard's crap.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Telstra resolved - at last

I was supposed to be receiving a promised call from a Telstra technician yesterday, hopefully to finally resolve my issues with their mobile broadband.

Things did not get off to a good start by receiving a form letter in the mail, commenting that my concern had been resolved (it wasn't) and assuring me of all the wonderful things that Telstra had been doing to improve resolution of consumer complaints. That rubbed me up the wrong way - big time.

The telephone rang at roughly the appointed time. During my conversation, I soon realised that I was talking to yet another Level Two technician, rather than the semi-mythical Level Three that I supposedly needed to talk to. He soon determined what had been worked out back on Day One, roughly a month ago - that there was a hardware issue rather than a network issue. I was then given the jolly news that the three previous Level Three requests that had been raised in relation to this matter, had all been directed to the wrong area. By now I was thinking "Yeah, Telstra - you've improved things no end - NOT." However he actually put me onto a real, live person. What's more, this was someone that actually had some idea of what they were talking about.

In considerably less than five minutes, we had done some troubleshooting and voile - problem solved. At last. It only took a month, repeated formal complaints, a complaint to the Office of the CEO and starting action with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to get that point. Not to mention well over fifteen hours spent with a telephone glued to my ear, most of the time on hold listening to the same infuriating tunes over and over, that made me just want to hurl the telephone receiver at the wall. But we got there at looooong last.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Melbourne drug dealer, Carl Williams, who was at the heart of the gangland war there through the 1990s and beyond, died in prison recently. He was serving time for organising the murder of several people although he was implicated in more killings than just the ones he was actually done for. Williams was bashed by another inmate and died of heart failure.

His funeral was the other day and the event received quite a bit of press coverage. Who cares that this scum is dead? The world is a better damn place without him! But get this - his coffin was gold-plated! How the hell did that come about? He made all of his money from unlawful dealings, mainly drugs - so why was there still enough money of his floating around to afford a damned gold coffin???

Williams's ex-wife, Roberta, never short of a word for the media, is now splashed across the face of a national Australian magazine, mourning the fact that some 'maggot' has stolen her daughter's father. What about all the people whose children were taken away from them via Williams's drug dealing? What about the families of the people he organised hits on? Exactly who is the maggot in this picture?

One of the ironies of the situation is that Roberta's actions are repeatedly so like those of her arch-enemy, Judy Moran - live off the proceeds of crime but then bleat about how awful things are when events catch up with you. And of course there was a biography appearing on the shelves of bookstores not long after Moran's appeared.

The murder of Williams occurred shortly after reports appeared in the media that his daughter's private schooling was being funded by the tax-payer although I have not followed that through as I am disgusted enough by the situation as it is.

An amusing aspect to the situation, if there is one, is to reflect on just how Williams ended up inside. He tried to ripoff one of his hitmen, refusing to pay him after doing the deed, with said hitman turning him in.

Now that 'Fatman' is dead, hopefully we will see an end to this sorry saga of major criminals and their families being treated as media celebrities, losing sight of the fact that he was a multiple murderer and major drug dealer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get Boxtox while you're young???

Headline news today in Australia is so-called cosmetic 'king', Napoleon Perdis, claiming that women should be turning to Boxtox much younger. According to Perdis, women should be getting jabbed with Botox by the time that they turn 3o.

The article I have linked to above does not mention that age of 30. However I saw Perdis in interview on Australian television earlier tonight and I can assure you that he did indeed make that claim.

Just what precisely is wrong with aging 'gracefully'? With looking after yourself with proper nutrition and facial care that does not require injecting yourself with foreign matter that gives you all the facial expression of a brick. But it is not just Botox that Perdis claims these younger women should be using. They should also be getting their faces treated to laser treatment.

Where this became particularly disturbing was to see just what impact these sorts of stunts are already having. I watched a woman in her early 20s, getting a Botox treatment. Her justification? She is already getting the occasional wrinkle and the price of beauty means those have to be removed, presumably at all costs.

You just have to look at how many young women, even adolescents, have been starving themselves for years in pursuit of supposed ideals of beauty which publicly insist that only impossibly thin is beautiful. With the likes of Perdis now openly pushing for younger women to resort to facial injections and laser treatments, we shall almost certainly see younger and younger women resorting to this sort of nonsense.

Ironically, this stunt, obviously done to support Perdis releasing a book, occurs at the same time that the push to show women as natural in magazines, is gathering momentum.

What on earth is wrong with admitting that we have lumps, bumps and other things?

In my opinion, Perdis deserves a major kick in the butt for his comments that will almost certainly have an irresponsible impact on the young.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where there's smoke...

The Australian government has just announced the intention to introduce new legislation that will require oil companies to no longer share price information.

This raises an important issue. It is hard to imagine government introducing something like that unless it had evidence that the oil companies were indeed sharing price information. So it is a pretty fair assumption that the oil companies have indeed been sharing price information.

Why would oil companies, all competitors with each other, be sharing price information? The is only one plausible explanation - that they are sharing price information in order to collectively set prices? No other possible explanation would make the slightest sense.

Now if the oil companies are sharing information to collectively set prices, that is considered anti-competitive behaviour.

There is a little organisation called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Their entire reason for being is to enforce matters such as the Trade Practices Act. Their remit involves taking action against anti-competitive behaviour. Yet the ACCC has for years allegedly been unable to find any evidence of such behaviour by the oil companies. But it now appears to have been something of an open 'secret' with enough evidence existing to warrant passing of legislation to stamp out the practice.

Just exactly why was the ACCC unable to find the same evidence? Former head of the ACCC, Prof Alan Fels, the man behind the push to remove Parallel Import Restrictions on books, who declared those who opposed the move to be ill-informed and ignorant, was apparently unable to find evidence that was clear enough for others to find.

I have said it before in this blog - just exactly who was the ignorant one, Prof?

The oil companies have been blatantly manipulating prices to suit themselves and engage in price gouging at the expense of the consumer for who knows how long. And the regulator was proven to be completely and utterly useless in combating that situation.

Pathetic. Simply pathetic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Being My Own CEO


It is time to take a break from my now perpetual rants against the telecommunications industry and turn my attention to something else that I am passionate about.

There are a number of people in the world that I really admire. One of them is Tyra Banks. That admiration is not just because I think she is absolutely gorgeous. Tyra is one very clever and accomplished lady. She made it to the top of her profession but has gone on well and truly beyond that.

One thing that I particularly like about Banks is the way that she freely shares things with people. On one hand, it probably makes good business sense to do so, keeping and further developing that fan base. But even if that were the only reason she does so, emphasis on if, then so what? We all need professional mentors, whatever our calling or vocation. And Tyra Banks certainly has plenty worth paying attention to that goes way beyond the world of being a model. The silly side of me has an almost overwhelming desire to make crass comments here about just exactly what I would like to be 'paying attention' to, but frankly I respect the lady far too much to do so. I do not let too many opportunities go past to make a joke but that is one I shall pass on. :-)

Over at her website (www.tyra.com), Banks is sharing her tips on becoming your own CEO, taking control of your life and profession. This program neatly dovetails with her long-running theme of the importance of not just having dreams but pursuing them.

I have joined the Tyra Banks 'Inner Circle' over at her website. And I am paying particularly close attention to her Be Your Own CEO column. Each week we get another step or tip as Tyra shares the things she has learned over her rather illustrious career.

Now and again I have the privilege of interviewing interesting/fascinating people. Tyra Banks is waaaay up the top of the list of people that I would dearly love to interview. However that is unlikely to be happening any time soon. In the meantime, I am quite happy to simply learn from her.

I recommend this Be Your Own CEO program to everyone.

Peace and out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Telstra? '3'? It appears I spoke too soon!

First, the latest Telstra developments.

After all of my problems trying to get assistance, now that I have finally been refunded for the dud product, all of a sudden Telstra staff are falling over themselves trying to do things for me. First there was an email, suddenly expressing concern that I have had complaints about their service. Then a whole new Customer Service person is calling me, having assigned an entirely new Complaint Resolution case. Naturally when I called back they were not available and I did not receive a return call in response to my message. Situation normal. But they wait until after I have been refunded for their dud product and after I had confirmed receipt of the refund before suddenly wanting to assist? WTF??

I also heard from 3 today by email. First there was a blurb apologising for the distress I experienced. Then, in response to my quite specific complaint about 3 continuing to sell a product while assuring customers that they will receive service on their network when in fact the network is not broadcasting in that location at all and they have known this for weeks but kept on making bullshit promises to the contrary, 3 have entirely ducked the matter. Instead, I am told that due to privacy restrictions, they may not discuss any aspect of the matter.

What a load of absolute, prime-grade bullshit. The Information Privacy Principles that form the core of the Australian Privacy Act, 1988, specify what personal information about individuals may not be revealed. For 3 to hide this entire matter under a veil of secrecy, claiming 'privacy' restrictions, is absolutely pathetic. Just as well that I have already reported them to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. I have now reported this latest stunt to them as well.

How can anybody ever trust organisations who are quite prepared to pull stunts like that?

Why did they bother?

Am I the only one who watched tonight's re-launch of Hey Hey It's Saturday (now on Wednesdays) and wondered why they bothered?

OK, so their couple of reunion specials did well, but those were sort of retro looking back, remembering, blah blah. But 're-launching' something only to do the same things they were doing 20 years ago? It just seemed tired. Sure, it was nice to see the lovely Lavinia Nixon again and I have to say that the young lady playing the violin in the new house band not only can play a real storm, she is absolutely dead-set gorgeous. But aside from that, Red Symons and Wilbur Wilde just did the same sort of gags they were doing way back when. Johnathon Blackman is even reading the same voice-over scripts from at least fifteen years ago. Daryl Somers still can't tell a gag to save his life.

If we are going to just dig something up from the television graveyard, try and do something more than just the same old thing, otherwise, why not not just dig Graham Kennedy up from his hole in the ground and re-launch In Melbourne Tonight. Or perhaps resurrect Bob and Dolly Dyer with Pick A Box (Dear Lord that shows how old I am, even if I was just a wee tacker at the time)?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Telstra saga over... sort of

I have now settled for a refund from Telstra that has been paid direct to a bank account, having confirmed that has been received.

Several days ago, I found a contact for Telstra's CEO and sent a very strongly worded complaint. I have received a reply this morning.

On behalf of our CEO, David Thodey, thank you for contacting us about your prepaid service. I apologise for the service issues you have experienced. Your loyalty to Telstra is valued. We are committed to a prompt resolution of this matter and a member of our team will be in contact with you.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns.

Regards

Executive Customer Contact Team

Yet another assurance of 'prompt resolution'. However I have received my refund. No doubt this will be written up as a successful resolution of complaint action. As far as I am concerned, it was anything but a successful resolution. It is staggering to realise that Telstra's complaints and higher levels of tech support are so overwhelmed that they cannot cope. Surely that should be a sign of things being anything but right?

At the end of the day, despite more than two weeks of trying I was singularly unsuccessful in having any contact with the mysterious Level Three technicians, despite it being determined on Day One that this was required. There were repeated attempts to offload the blame onto my equipment despite products from Telstra's competitors working on the laptop in question. And after Telstra staff refused to accept the product for forwarding to technicians unless I coughed up a bond, their only suggested solution was to have me wear the cost of mailing it in myself. Like hell I was. If the purchase contract had specified me wearing costs of 'return to base' servicing, then perhaps that would have been fair enough. But that was not mentioned anywhere.

For some reason, Telstra seem to feel entirely justified in charging a premium for certain products while providing an utterly sub-standard level of service and support. Not to mention my previous rant about how well they manage to hide the presence of their Complaint Resolution Centre from its customers.

I have been a customer of Telstra's for more than twenty years. During my long-distance courtship of the great love of my life, Telstra could have probably paid an extra dividend to shareholders just from my international phone calls to her. I really think I deserved far better treatment than I received. Needless to say they are losing all of my business from now on.

If David Theody and his staff are genuine in their remorse, then there would be an immediate major overhaul of the way that they do business. But that would cost money so it is a pretty safe bet that this won't be happening. Instead it is just we poor slobs, the users, who have to wear the consequences.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bulging Bellies and Follicle Follies

I need a new pair of pants. But clothes shopping has become one of my pet hates.

Once upon a time, all I had to do was pick a pair off the rack and get the hem taken up. People with my then-sylphish waist were all intended to be 6'7” bundles of animated pipe cleaners. But as I have advanced in age, the dreaded middle-age spread arrived. Now it is a juggling act between finding pants that fit, that are not so tight that the seam at the back takes cover between my hairy buttocks, that I can put my hand into the pocket without something tearing, that makes my gut look a little less prominent but all the while avoiding the look of an over-sized potato sack with a pair of feet attached at the end.

Forget 'does my bum look big in this?' It is more a case of 'does my fat gut bulge out over the top like a hideously malformed muffin top?' The real irony is that I have a serious case of beer gut – except that I haven't had a beer in more than eight years.

Back in the Rubenesque days, women with more 'fulsome' figures were the epitome of all that was desirable. When is it going to be the man's turn? When are going to see male models that reflect what all too many of us end up like? Forget the rock-hard abs down the catwalk. What about the soft-bellied bloke with thinning hair that is going grey and his bad knee from a football injury giving him trouble because the weather has turned cold?

And then there is... the hair. Just what, pray tell, was the Dear Lord thinking of, when he decided it would be a good idea for men to loose the hair on the head, replacing it with follicle outbursts else where in the body? Do we really need tufts of hair deciding to emerge from our already-deafening ears? Was it really necessary to give us things emerging from our nostrils like lima vines, other than boogers? And why oh why, the tufts of hair appearing on the back where only an over-active contortionist could reach?

According to Darwin, we have evolved from the great primates. I suspect as we blokes get older, our bodies succumb to racial memory and start trying to devolve back to our origins.

I need a new pair of pants.

Warning - '3' are trading under false pretenses!


Following the latest ludicrous display from Telstra, I headed off to the competition that I have used previously, hoping to be able to obtain a unit with better receptors such as the Telstra unit supposedly had. However the store manager burst out laughing when I showed him the delinquent Telstra unit that supposedly had better receptors in it.

"They're all made by the same company," he laughed. "It has nothing to do with receptors in the unit but is all about strength of the signal from the network you're on. Telstra have had you on, mate."

Just as I thought. Telstra staff pulled a fast one on me to sell me a more expensive unit that did no more than their cheaper one. Yet another instance of Telstra being scam artists!

At this point, I expected the manager of that shop to be trying to sell me another one of his products. He didn't. Instead, he sympathised with my problems and admitted that he has difficulty in getting a signal at his home as well. Like me, he lives just next to the CBD of Australia's capital, Canberra. Also like me, with networks other than Telstra, it has proved normal to not be able to get a 3G broadband wireless signal inside a building. The best he could suggest was investing in a lengthy USB extension and drape that outside in hope of getting a better signal. For God's sake - are we that backward in Australia??

I wonder how long the modem would last in the weather outside my window? As for any warranty after that treatment? Forget about it.

As I was stalking through the shopping centre in high dungeon, I stopped at yet another of Telstra's competitors and was checking their product out. It seemed promising. This was '3'.

First things first - what is the reception like in my area? The assistant checked on their computer system, down to my actual street address. She assured me that I had coverage at that address. So I spent another $94 (noting that I am still $160 out of pocket from Telstra's piece of garbage - as a pensioner, that bloody hurts) on one of their modems plus initial data purchase. And headed home.

First things first - activate the unit. Check. Next, call and validate the prepaid voucher - Check. I am told that it will take five minutes or so to replicate through their network. No problems. I find something else to do for half-an-hour.

Time to test the new wonder-gadget. Except I kept getting an error message that I was not registered on their networks. I call tech support. First they check my location and confirm that yes, I should have coverage there. Eventually they had me take the laptop out in the car and drive around for a while, seeing if I could get a signal in the surrounding suburbs. After doing that, feeling like an absolute idiot, not to mention having a householder challenge me, wanting to know what I was doing and telling me that he had called the police because I was 'acting suspicously' while parked outside their house, I headed home.

Another call to 3's tech support, reporting the distinct lack of success. More messing around - and then the bombshell.

They now admit that there is a network problem in my area. And they have known about this since March 20! Nor do they have any idea when it will be rectified. Yet they are happily still selling product to people, assuring them that there is coverage in this area when in fact the network is non-existent. When protested this, I was initially assured that the coverage did in fact extend to my area but the network actually transmitting is another matter. Talk about playing with semantics!

What a load of frog shit. That is nothing sort of trading under false pretenses.

I have successfully argued for a refund and have been given authorisation numbers to provide to the store tomorrow. What's the betting that the store quibbles over it? Be sure that you shall be hearing about it if they do.

In the meantime, I am still stuck with my existing service from GRLmobile that only works while sitting outside in the company of the mosquitoes, the increasing cold and the dubious company of the passing junkies on their way to visit their friendly local dealer.

Wireless telecommunications in Australia is an absolute farce. The biggest provider with the strongest network, Telstra, is doing nothing short of price gouging while failing to provide anything like technical support. Any why not? Just like the old days, they still have more or less a monopoly on things. But unlike the bad old days, the industry is now deregulated and there is SFA that can be done. Even the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has proven to be more or less powerless.

The moral of this particular part of the story folks, is do not purchase any wireless product from '3' including any mobile technology, unless they have checked the status of the network in your location. Do not, repeat, do not accept their assurances about 'coverage'. And the theme that has been running through the posts on this subject remains the same: Do Not Trust Telstra! Unless you are one of the shareholders. You lot can rejoice in all the profits being made at the expense of the rest of we poor slobs.

I was right - Telstra ARE scam artists!


I have learned, much to my cost, that the wireless telecommunications industry in Australia is an absolute farce and a rort.

Following my protracted negotiations with Telstra, it has been agreed that I am to be refunded for the unit that will not work with my computer and that Telstra are not prepared to provide proper technical support for. All I have to do is return the unit, requesting it be forwarded to the tech support people for testing.

I returned to the point of purchase. But the store manager refused to take the unit back for tech review unless:
  • I provided a credit card number; or
  • I paid cash bond.
Like hell I was giving them either of those things. It was Telstra staff who requested me to return the unit for technical support. My refund is dependent on this. But I am expected to hand over cash money that they will hold for an unspecified period of time and have been anything but up front on what the conditions are for it being returned.

What a brilliant scam this lot are running:
  • keep giving customers incorrect information via technical support that forces the customer to keep calling back at twenty-five cents a time;
  • hide the existence of the Complaints Resolution Centre
  • tie refunds to return of the equipment BUT
  • only if you provide a bond up front or give them a credit card to bill you for the process of providing the tech review that the refund is reliant on.
If you or I tried such a thing, we'd be done for fraud, trading under false pretenses and who knows what else. But, as ever, the big corporations continue to be allowed to do what they wish, when they wish, to whomsoever the hell they want to do it to. Just look at how the ACCC have consistently ruled in favour of the oil companies and their staggering degrees of uncompetitive behaviour.

But the story is not yet over - see my next post that is about to come.

Overqualified??

Back in 2007 when my beloved former employer, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, saw me thrown on the scrapheap, having thoroughly wrecked my health and leaving me with not much more than the clothes on my back, their parting advice was that I would have no difficulty in eventually returning to the workplace.

More than two years on, I'm still trying to find that elusive workplace to re-enter. Today I received the quite joyful word that it is not my age (46, almost 47) that is going against me (like hell it isn't) but that I am too highly qualified.

I am so over trying to climb corporate ladders and that b.s. Yet for some reason, nobody seems interested in believing that all I want is a job that I can do quietly and well, keeping a roof over my head and food on the table, while I continue to develop other interests. I am long-term proposition but nobody seems interested in that fact.

A round of applause folks, for Australia's national Statistical Agency for getting it wrong - yet again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Popsicle Award


This would have to be one of my favourites so far.

Two women have been caught trying to sneak a dead man onto a plane flight in England, heading to Germany. The 91yo was definitely deceased so they just tried to hide the fact by sticking a pair of shades on him and pushing him along in a wheel chair. They then tried to claim that he was asleep.

I keep getting mental images of the women saying things like:
"Don't worry about granddad - he's asleep. Truly ruly. No, it only looks like he isn't breathing. Look - he just waved at you. What, you didn't see that? Huh? No, granddad always smells like that."

Forget the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch, now we have the Dead Grandpa in a Wheelchair sketch.

So for only have a Popsicle Stick keeping their ears apart, I hereby bestow the Noble Order of the Popstick Award on this pair of dimwit shelias.

Telstra - a serious warning!

Are you in Australia and thinking of using Telstra for a pre-paid telecommunication device i.e. mobile phone or mobile broadband? Then there are a few things that you need to be aware of. These are matters that I have uncovered over the past two weeks during my extended saga.

  1. There is a Complaints Resolution Centre whose role is resolving complaints over Telstra's failure to adequately address complaints. They can do things like give you credits on your account as compensation for the difficulties you have been put through as well as elevate the complaint too higher levels. But Telstra are under no obligation to reveal its existence. It is not listed in any telephone directory, Directory Assistance or on the the Telstra website. Their staff will not tell you the number. I even found staff who denied the Centre's existance. But if you call the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and lodge a complaint, they will require you to contact that Resolution Centre before the TIO can take action. And now (drum roll please) that ever-s0-secret telephone number is 1800 665 376. If you are having problems and Telstra are not resolving it properly, call this number before doing anything else. If they continue to mess you around then call the TIO but note that this entails another ten day wait before they can actually act. But every call that the TIO receives in complaint about a telco provider, that telco provider is billed for the call. So you if you wanted to be particularly nasty, keep calling the TIO to run up the charges being billed to your telco. :-)
  2. You will be given repeated assurances that a Level Three Technician will call you. But do not expect this to happen in anything remotely like the promised time frame. That is because Telstra have such a backlog of serious technical complaints yet to be resolved, that they are unable to cope with it. But this is not actually revealed unless you elevate the matter to higher levels such as the Resolution Centre.
  3. The 'Customer Service Centre' will declare your case closed once they have directed it to technicians for further action. The excuse given to me is that they have so many complaints to deal with that they cannot afford to leave them 'open' until the problem is actually solved. So congratulations all round to Telstra for being able to hire a workforce of psychics who can accurately foretell the future and declare matters closed before anything has actually happened.
  4. Telstra charges twice the price for half the amount of data download in prepaid mobile band than does its competitors e.g. GRL charge $29 for 750Mb, 3 charge $15 for 500Mb or $29 for 2 Gig, Telstra charge $3o for 400Mb;
  5. Telstra's customer accounting systems are not able to tell you what your download limits actually are for pre-paid mobile broadband. That accounting is kept in dollar terms even though you are purchasing a set amount of download capacity that is expressed and monitored by the Megabyte. But the download history is expressed in Bytes making it impossible to work out your remaining download limits unless you create and solve an increasingly complex quadratic equation for 'x'.
  6. Late today, Telstra staff have made the quite damning admission to me that their interest in customer support is not in looking after pre-paid customers but instead devoting its attention to post-paid customers. Any difficulties requiring technical support that may not be resolved by the immediate technicians (who merely use a prepared script) then it is moved to quite low priority queues. Telstra have virtually no interest in providing real support for its pre-paid products.
The bottom line is that if you are after a pre-paid telecommunications option, then do not use Telstra. Their service is virtually non-existent and any interest in you as a customer ends the moment they have sold you the product.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bastard Banks - again

In my experience, there are three particularly unprincipled industry groups in Australia: the banks, insurance companies and oil companies. Being an ex-banker who worked in the industry through the madness of the 1980s, I know who I think is the worst. I have previously blogged on the subject.

An ongoing matter for a couple of years now is the fact that when the Reserve Bank changes interest rates, there is no compulsion on any of the banks on what they may or may not pass on to the consumer. In fact we now have a standard practice in the banking industry. When the Reserve Bank lowers interest rates, the banks refuse to pass on all of this rate cut, protesting the cost of raising funds as the cause. But when the Reserve Bank increases rates, the banks all but fall over themselves in passing on 100% of that increase.

Now back in late 2008, when the banks passed on 80% of an interest rate reduction, after earlier generally expressing the view that they would only pass on less than that, we were subjected to then Leader of the Opposition, Chief Turning Bull (Malcolm Turnball), claiming the credit. His justification? He claimed the Opposition drew a 'line in the sand' which somehow forced the Banks into line. Does that mean they have to also carry the can for when the banks pass 100% of a rate increase after shortchanging their customers on rate reductions?

Ironically, dear Ex-Chief Turning Bull has just announced he will be standing down from politics at the end of his current term. Oh how the mighty have fallen. After failing to talk the former Labour government into handing him a seat, he suddenly became a true believer in the Liberal Party (for my friends outside of Australia, replace 'liberal' with 'conservative') cause. And now as the banks continue their bastard practices, Turning Bull is cowering away, his tail well between his legs.

A reality check - despite the arrogance of Turning Bull (and his then mate, Blubberguts Joe Hockey, although TB is still walking around with Fatboy's knives in his back), the banks are not in fear of the Liberal-National coalition. Or the government for that matter. They are in fact a law unto themselves.

Enough is enough. Deregulation of the financial sector has plenty of things going for it. But this was never intended to be a free pass for the banks to blatantly engage in price gouging.

A Current Affair strikes again!!

In an earlier post, I had a crack at Australian television program on the Australian Channel Nine network, A Current Affair, for putting ratings above justice. I commented that this was hardly an isolated incident.

Channel Nine and two of its staff are now being prosecuted for making illegal recordings. They received a tip-off that a former Mayor of Sydney was ordering a hit on another person. Rather than take this to the police, A Current Affair did their own sting, fitting out a car with listening devices and had someone pose as a hit man. It makes good viewing, but once more, in pursuit of ratings, Channel Nine has thrown the rules out the window. Once more we face the spectre of justice not being seen because any jury panel would have been compromised and thoroughly tainted.

When is something going to be down about these cheque-book journalists? How many more years are television networks going to be allowed to continue to abuse the law in the pursuit of cheap, nasty ratings? How many more criminals and dodgy characters are going to be able to duck proper punishment because due process has been hopelessly compromised?