Interest Rates Rise
A couple weeks ago, the Reserve Bank of Australia increased interest rates for the ninth consecutive time. It was news delivered along with a grim warning. It wouldn’t be the last of such increases; there were several more to come.
RBA Governor Phil Lowe sticks by his decision and is quick to remind us that he is not the only decision maker.
Lowe says that the fact it’s all “sheeted down to” him is “a bit unfair.”
I can think of a few other things that are a significantly less fair given these circumstances, but the humanist in me did not like seeing the elderly gentleman hunched under the weight of – relatively light – questions at the Senate Estimates.
The humanist leaves my body pretty quickly every time a mortgage repayment is due though.
High interest rates coupled with cost-of-living concerns have consumer confidence lower than they were in April 2020 i.e. The month the whole world stopped, and we all thought the end was nigh. Unemployment is also creeping back up.
Homeowners and renters alike are suffering for these rate hikes, and one in four Australians recently reported skipping meals to cut down on costs.
It’s a little rich (no pun intended) to earn almost a million dollars a year and make decisions that affect people who – by and large – don’t earn so much as a tenth of that.
There’s also the cruel twist of the knife in the windfall profits that the big 4 banks are expecting in 2023 – $14 billion in interest alone.
The price of necessities has risen exponentially, completely outpacing the rising of wages (which have actually gone backwards when accounting for inflation). Driving up prices on those necessities – gas and electricity, groceries, fuel – are the greedy companies making money hand over fist, knowing people need their products to survive.
Railroads in Ruins
Across the Pacific to the United States.
East Palestine, Ohio has a population of around 5,000 people. It is a sleepy corner of the US Midwest. It probably should’ve never found itself the scene of a disaster so epic that the whole world knows of its existence.
50 cars of a freight train owned by company Norfolk Southern and carrying tons of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals became derailed.
A fire engulfed the small town and surrounds, sending mushroom-like clouds into the sky. The tragic incident has been likened, not hyperbolically, to Chernobyl.
Not insignificantly, this happened after impassioned pleas and warnings from unionised rail workers, telling Norfolk Southern in no uncertain terms that their practices were incredibly unsafe.
Practices like longer trains, less staff, less maintenance work. What for? The bottom dollar of course.
Initially told that it was safe to re-enter the evacuated town, residents are now reporting nausea, headaches, and blurred vision. Animals are dropping dead en masse. The water systems are glistening with oily rainbows like the ground of a mechanic’s workshop.
Norfolk Southern, ostensibly in an attempt to avoid accountability, have been conspicuously absent from meetings with residents, and their CEO has offered but a tepid apology.
Unions have tried to rally against these unsafe practices but have been routinely shut down by Congress.
Aside from horrendously not providing paid sick leave to their workers (as if we’ve learned nothing from the pandemic), Norfolk Southern spent around $120 billion on share buybacks.
A cautionary tale for workers and workplaces in Australia: workers on the front line of a job, their health and safety reps and their unions, will always know more about how to keep a workplace safe. Not the board of directors or the CEO from all the way up on level 403 of head office; having never set a foot on an actual worksite.
Speaking of safety in the workplace, please sign the petition to ban the use of silica in Australia before it kills tens of thousands of Aussie workers.
Finally, Relief for Refugees
In a huge win for decency, around 19,000 refugees will now be able to access a path to permanency in Australia and will have the same rights as other permanent residents.
Previously, those on temporary protection or safe haven enterprise visas were not eligible for Medicare, or the tertiary HELP scheme for tuition fees, among other things that Australians often take for granted.
[It’s important to note that there are approximately 12,000 refugees still living in a state of effective limbo and the fight to grant them those same rights must go on.]