Meat Butcher

Devastated farmers urge Aussies to buy local meat

The banks have been in the news for the last couple of weeks, with tales of their woeful treatment of customers dominating headlines.

Despite promises from the banks’ that they’re “going to change”, we could be headed for more of the same in about six months time, after devastating monsoonal rains tore through far north Queensland.

Many farming families have been left with absolutely nothing – their farms completely obliterated. And banks will need to come to the party and suspend mortgages over the months and years ahead, so they have an opportunity to get back on their feet.

Grazier Rachael Anderson, who lost around 2000 cattle in the massive weather event, said the loss of so many animals would affect her station’s ability to survive.

“We (won’t be able to) get loans because we’ve got nothing to borrow against. None of us have got anything left,” she told reporters.

“I can provide for my family right now. But in six months time or when the bank comes for their repayment, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Her heartbreaking story isn’t an isolated one, as there are dozens upon dozens of farms that have lost everything in these floods. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 cattle have perished. These are unfathomable numbers.

Insurers have already received over 13,000 claims, with losses sitting at around $165 million, but there will still be plenty of farms that slip through the cracks. This is when we’ll need to apply the most pressure to our banks, to ensure they do the right thing by our farmers, and forgive (or at least suspend/re-work) debts when it counts.

Right now, our Queensland farmers need our support more than ever, and showing your support is as simple as “buying Australian products,” grazier Jacqueline Curley wrote in a heart-wrenching Facebook post, which has been shared more than 16,000 times and liked over 33,000 times.

“Our state and federal governments can do much to help by providing financial funding and disaster assistance packages to help our communities recover and rebuild. The banks can assist by suspending interest repayments on existing mortgages, amongst other things whilst our livestock herds rebuild.

“And you can help us by using your consumer power and insisting on buying local produce, then we can continue to provide your families with our top quality, home grown, nourishing Australian beef.”

Words with friends

Sleazy men deter women from WordsWithFriends

This week I joined Words with Friends, the smart phone app that allows you to connect with friends and strangers online to play scrabble. I thought it would be a fun app for me and my daughter, who is in third grade, to play.

Within two hours, I considered deleting it. Because within two hours, I’d received 3 unsolicited, sleazy messages from men.

I thought it was a safe space. But almost immediately after logging in, random dudes from the United States were sending me messages through the platform.

It’s so difficult to properly explain this to men, but it leaves you feeling strangely violated, when people throw unexpected sexual innuendo at you, without your consent.

It’s not flattering. It’s not welcomed. It’s just plain creepy, so please, for the love of God, stop.

The first one was pleasant enough, though still made me feel oddly vulnerable and uncomfortable: “Hey beautiful, how’s your day going.”

The next one was persistent. He sent me 8 messages over the two hours, all variations of “Are you there?”

The last one was the grossest. He used emojis. Enough said.

Afterwards, I shared a screenshot on social media, and was flooded with comments from female friends who confirmed: “Yep, that’s why I deleted that app”.

Come again?! Since when did a fun game of scrabble – which by the way, would be a fertile playground for younger players (children!) – become a default dating or sexting app?

I did a quick google search and discovered it’s a known hazard of the game.

Hope writes, “I’m just tired of people being sleazy on WWF. It makes me dread getting a message at all.”

Barbie confirms, “I now straight up decline any games from men.”

Jenny was asked to “text a sexy picture”.

And the stuff that Rae reports over here gets real full-on, real fast.

The most annoying thing about this is that, as always, the onus is on the woman to fix the problem. Make sure you don’t have an attractive profile pic; just blend in. Change your name so you’re not noticeably female. Block users who send unsolicited messages.

In other words, add it to the ever-growing list of things that we as women have to be vigilant about if we want to interact in the world. Or just delete the app. I’m still not decided…

Bitcoin cryptocurrency

Mystery surrounds crypto founder’s death, $250m “lost” funds

At my recent 20-year reunion, I caught up with a friend who I’d been close with all through high school. I’d known his family as well, so asked after them all; what have they all been up to?

“My dad is big-time into cryptocurrency,” he said. “He bought in early, and he’s got millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin. So he’s doing really well!”

Is he, though?

Cryptocurrency is the Next Big Thing to disrupt our financial markets, but it all sounds a little risky to me.

There’s no value under-pinning the currency – it is quite literally manufactured from thin air. Plus, I don’t like the idea of my wealth being so vulnerable to unusual risks. Like, say, the risk that someone with seniority in the business might die, taking all of the passwords to the crypto bank with them.

This just happened.

Canadian man Gerald Cotton, founder of digital platform Quadriga (which is a platform that allows people to trade Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies), unexpectedly died at the age of 30 from complications with Crohn’s disease.

Gerald, who was reportedly volunteering at an orphanage in India at the time, had kept the passwords for over AU$250m worth of clients’ currency on his laptop. Somehow, he was exclusively responsible for transferring money within the business, and he was Quadriga’s sole officer and director.

His wife Jennifer says she does not know the password or recovery key, nor can she access the laptop.

Earlier in 2018, CIBC (a Canadian bank) took legal action and froze almost $26m.

It’s all starting to sound a little fishy, and some are questioning whether Gerald may have faked his own death.

In fact, competitor firm KrakenFX even tweeted that they are “investigating the bizarre and, frankly, unbelievable story of the founder’s death and lost keys”.

To complicate things further, Gerald died in early December – but his wife didn’t publicly announce it or share the news with their 100,000-plus clients for almost a month, posting it on social media on January 14.

It all sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, but for the tens of thousands of people who have money stuck in the exchange – this is very much real life.

Our banks are pretty terrible, it’s true. But I’d rather trust my savings with them than a cryptocurrency…

Money

The rich get richer…

The fallout of the Royal Commission has dominated news headlines in recent days, and for good reason.

The way the banks have acted has been appalling. Stories such as this one – where BankWest abruptly changed the rules on a borrower (who hadn’t ever missed a single payment, by the way), and demanded they repay their loan within 2 years instead of the initial 15-year agreement – are beyond the pale.

We can only hope that the 76 new recommendations that came out of the final report will start to stamp out their abhorrent behavior.

But there is going to be another consequence of the Royal Commission that not enough people are taking about. And it’s a change that is going to see the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer…

One of the key recommendations from the Hayne report is a change to the way the mortgage industry works. At the moment if you use a broker to get a home loan, the bank who settles the loan pays the commission, typically 0.6% of the loan value. On a $500,000 loan, it is $3000.

The proposed change would see this cost fall on the borrower instead.

I don’t know about you, but as an everyday Australian earning an everyday income – I don’t have $3000 spare to pay a mortgage broker.

Which means, we’ll stop using them.

Which means, we’ll have to apply direct with the banks.

And this is where the problems begin for consumers.

I know from personal experience that the Big 4 have very tight loan criteria. Years ago, my loan was rejected by two big banks because I’m self-employed and they didn’t like that. I had to turn to a smaller lender (which, ironically, was owned by one of the Big 4 who rejected me!) for a mortgage.

It was only with the guidance of my mortgage broker that I was able to find this third bank who was willing to give me a loan.

So what will my financial future look like, now that it’s only going to be those with fat pockets who will be able to afford the services of a broker – who will search the market and find them the best deal, the cheapest rates and the most suitable loan for their needs?

Moreover, how will this encourage the banks to lift their game with customers – when they’re the ones making the commission savings, to the tune of billions of dollars per year?

The system is definitely broken alright – and I’m not convinced the Royal Commission is going to fix it.

Baby Car

Call for compassion after baby dies in hot car

A baby tragically died in Sydney on the weekend after he was left in a hot car. In an utterly heartbreaking set of circumstances, he was in the care of his grandparents when he died, and his grandma was taken to hospital suffering shock afterwards. The child’s mother – well, it’s easy to see how she will never recover from this.

The response to this tragedy online has been reactive and unhelpful, to say the least.

Any parent or caregiver can forget a child. Any of us.

I’m not talking about the parents who leave their kids in the car so they can duck into the shops or run errands, or who leave their kids sleeping in the car because they don’t want to wake them up – this is reckless, negligent behaviour.

But there are countless comments from people on social media saying “I don’t understand how you could forget your child – they deserve to go to jail”.

I don’t understand how you don’t understand! Because it’s not a purposeful choice; people are not consciously doing it. They are regular people going about their day, juggling a million different things in their mind, and their babies have fallen asleep in the car… and that’s when a crucial, tragic, life-ending mistake is made.

A brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning article, Fatal Distraction, was published about a decade ago that deep dives into how this happens. Journalist Gene Weingarten writes:

“Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organised, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A paediatrician… It happened to a rocket scientist.”

Years ago, my cousin’s old boss forgot to drop her daughter at daycare one morning. She was distracted by a big work day ahead of her and went into work, started checking emails, made some phone calls.

It was almost 30 minutes before she realised her baby was in the car. She’s an intelligent, educated, kind, caring woman, but this can and does happen to anyone – especially to parents who are sleep deprived. Luckily the baby was totally fine, but her mother wasn’t. She has struggled with guilt to this day, driving herself crazy with “what ifs”.

Demonising people who do this helps no one, and getting the pitchforks out and demanding “justice” is a fool’s game. Because the reality is, someone who lost their grandchild or child can bear no greater punishment than the natural consequences of their actions.