Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Passports Australia bowing to public outrage

The Australian Government, sensitive to the criticism of victimizing victims of Victorian the bushfires, according to scant information available from the passports office has offered to waive the costs associated with the reissuing of any passports that were destroyed in the fire with the same expiry date of the original passport.

Whilst the Government should be commended for the offer of assistance to Bushfire victims and their insurance companies, who otherwise would have to cover the cost of replacement, the question needs to be asked why they do not offer the same degree of compassion to other victims of a flood or victims of a crime who have had their passport stolen?

Applicants are still be required to furnish a copy of their birth certificate and other documents verifying their identity. All you should need to do is prove that you are the person associated with the original passport. A birth certificate can not identify who you are, last time I look they did not have a photo or DNA imprint on them. Your entitlement to be issued a passport should already be recorded and on file from when you were last issued with your original passport. I would have thought that if they had a record of their original passport there would be no reason for the having to produce a copy of your birth certificate. If your birth certificate was also destroyed you will need to obtain a new one before the Australian Government can reissue you a replacement passport. It is unclear if the government has extended the compassionate offer to also include reissuing other documents such drivers license and the like.

If your money, assets and passport are stolen or destroyed by no fault of your own you are penalised by the Government for being a victim (unless you are effected by last weeks bushfires).

It is still unclear what test or proof of onus they will require. We could find no information on the http://passports.gov.au web site related to Bushfire or flood victims.

What is clear is that the system that was put in place by Alexander Downer is unfair and unjust. A system that has been prolonged by the Rudd Labor government who has increased the level of fees charged.

Bushfire victims subject to $69 to $416 fine for loss of passport

Australians who have lost their passports in the Victorian bushfires, in a policy introduced by Alexander Downer in 2005, will be subject to a fine of $69 to $416 plus the cost of replacement for the loss of their passport.

The Australian Government applies a fine if you lose your passport, it is stolen or destroyed. First offence attracts a $69 fine subsequent additional loss $208 to $416

The cost of a new Passport is $208 for Adults and $104 for Children

They will be required to produce a copy of proof of citizenship and identity including a copy of their birth certificate

Doyle Backs down under pressure

Robert Doyle, under pressure by the local media, has backed down and canceled his intended St.Petersburg "Junket" leaving a member of Staff on 50,000 for three days to attend the St Petersburg Days of Melbourne celebrations.

Melbourne is one of St. Petersburg 26 Sister Cities. Whilst Melbourne's Sister City relationship with St Petersburg is of value in Australia's relationship with Russia there are questions about the way in which the City of Melbourne goes about recognising and valuing the relationship.

The role and way in which the Australian Embassy in Moscow represents Australia is also under question.

The Moscow Embassy, according to the DFAT web site, is also responsible for representing Australia's Interests in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

It is headed up by Margaret Twomey.

The Embassy, in what is seen as indicative of the Moscow's office, did little to nothing to further Australia's representation in Ukraine, an important strategic nation in the region. In an embarrasing oversight, DFAT and the Embassy has forgotten to update Ukraine on the Embassy's list of Nations that it represented highlighting the value or lack of value they show towards recognising Ukraine as a nation. Georgia is not even listed as a country. Ukraine and Georgia were part of the Moscow Office of responsibility but it appears that Ukraine is now represented by the Austrian Embassy in Vienna. DFAT has not updated their index listing. If only they paid more attention to their job and less attention on junkets and social events whilst actively justifying their highly paid salaries and hardship living away from home benefits.

When an Australian was shot in an apparent road rage incident in Kyiv last year the Embassy was able to offer little to no support. Which by comparison to the level of support offered to other incidents around the world that had attracted significant media attention raises series questions as to the ability of the Embassy's administration. Little wonder why Moscow lost responsibility for Ukraine.

Less celebration and more work is required.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Common-wealth Bank Withdrawal

The Commonwealth Bank has been doing it tough - so although that they have lost a fortune of investors money - Their superannuation scheme is one of the poorest performing financial funds.

In 2000 I had invested a small fortune in the CBA Superannuation fund thinking it was a good investment after talking to the Commonwealth Bank Financial advisor - big mistake.

In August last year the amount invested and retained by the Commonwealth Bank Financial Services (Sic) had grown 60% over the last eight years and I was charged $800 setup costs plus an annual administrative fee. (My other industry based fund had grown twice that rate and cost less to set up).

In 2004 I had taken out a Gold credit card before my return departure overseas. During my travels my Wallet along with my passport and Gold credit card were stolen - A Victim of a train pickpocket racket. I managed to get my passport back but required a new passport and was fined $50 by the Australian Government for being a victim of a crime (My Commonwealth Gold Credit card was never seen again) Having reported the Credit card stolen the Commonwealth Bank informed me that they could not forward a new Card to me overseas as the Gold card had to be picked up from the bank. -- Some use that was as I was OS. I was told that the account would be closed as the card had not been issued and that the balance of the account would be transferred to my linked saving account). OK I was without a Gold credit card - The bank did managed to send me a normal credit card`without the Gold imprint and without requiring it to be picked up at the bank - why they could not send the Gold Card I still do not know.

Imagine how I felt when on my return three years latter I discovered that not only had my Gold Credit Card not been cancelled as I was told it would be, but the Commonwealth Bank continued to debited my account $100 annually for a card that I had no access to or no benefit from. The Account did not appear on my telephone banking menu and I rightly assumed that the account had been closed. What's worst is that the Award Savings Points - The scheme that is designed to suck you into spending and using Commonwealth Bank's Credit - was not transferred to my other account - I had thought the two cards were linked to the same Award Saving points. No that would be too simple and straight forward, the Commonwealth Bank does not like things to be efficient - It goes against their code of ethics in doing Business.

To further undermine confidence in the Bank's operation, annoyed at the poor quality service and the fact that the Bank failed to close my account as indicated and debited me for a service they did not provide, I decided to withdraw all my investments from the Commonwealth Bank before they lose the lot.

I had lost all confidence in the bank and decided to contact the bank again last week to ascertain the current level of my investments.

On contacting the Bank I was told that my superannuation account had lost value, thanks to the USA lead world economic recession. My investment held in trust with the commonwealth Bank was now 20% less (Overall reducing the value my superfund to an annual increase of 4% per annum (Down from 8%) on my original investment, even less if you consider compound interest.

Well that was the last straw. I had lost all confidence in the bank and its administration and investment strategy. I would have done better managing the money myself. I wanted out.

On inquiring how to go about withdrawing my money and transferring my investments to another financial service the CBA "customer service officer" I spoke to was not very helpful or apologetic for the fact that the Bank had lost me thousands of dollars in fact they were going out their way to make it difficult for me to access my money or transfer my account.

It seams that the Commonwealth Bank is a no-care institution and accept no-responsibility for their mistakes and denies any liability.

For those that do not know the Commonwealth Bank, it is Australia's largest commercial bank. I joined the bank 45 years ago along with millions of other school children who were encouraged to bank with the Commonwealth though a child education programme, I later set up a State Bank of Victoria account only to find that I was back into the Commonwealth bank when the State Bank collapsed and the Commonwealth bank took it over.

The Commonwealth bank has not, in my opinion, done a good job managing its investments the loss of my investments and award points is a good example of the problems facing the bank.

They are good at paying staff and directors large salaries and high annual bonus but when it comes to dividends and service they are second rate.

The extent of my loss at the hands of the bank has alarm bells ringing. Other Industry Superannuation funds have fared much better then the Commonwealth bank. I would not be surprised if there are many people out there who feel as I do and who want to withdraw their investments before it is too late. We can expect a run on the bank if they continue to act as they do, they will soon find they will need to liquidate their own asserts and layoff the overpaid staff (Management of course will continue to receive large bonuses which are expected and not tied to the banks performance.

The services offered by other banks are much more professional and in keeping with the public's expectations. My advice would be to think seriously about your investments and think twice before placing trust in a bank that does not care about their customers or their investments. Loyalty... forget it they have no idea of the true meaning of the word.

Whilst Australia morns Robert Doyle flies out to Russia on his first junket

Victorians are in morning as it recalls the devastation and cost to lives and property following Saturdays devastating bush fire.

Record breaking temperatures and high winds fueled one of Victoria's most tragic bush fires.

With over 130 recorded deaths, towns wiped off the map and untold destruction to wild life and the environment.

In the midst of this disaster it is comforting to know that our Lord mayor, The right Honorable Robert Doyle, has his priorities right.

Instead of donating the estimated $100,000 to the Red Cross Victorian Bush Fire Appeal -Robert has flown off to Russia to spend three days in the midst of the Russian cold winter, drinking vodka and enjoying the Russian hospitality.

One can not help but think under the circumstances he should have stayed at home.

Please support the Red Cross Appeal - Victoria needs your help