Cartoon: By Pickering
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder. – Frederic Bastiat
For many years the federal government has claimed the right to seize the contents of bank accounts that have been inactive for more than seven years. These funds go into general revenue and are spent, although there are provisions for it to be reclaimed by the owner.
Late last year with the budget in disarray, it was decided to loot any accounts that had not been accessed for three years. This allows it to gain immediate access to any funds in such accounts four years earlier in bulk up to the seven-year mark including those that would have been accessed during that time.
This has been a disaster for 75-year-old pensioner, Adrian Duffy who with his wife saved up $22,616 in an account dedicated to future medical needs and left it there untouched until it was needed. Mr. Duffy had a heart bypass operation and after coming out of hospital, found that the government had stolen his money:
The Australian Bankers' Association has accused the Government of putting its "own financial circumstances" ahead of customers' needs, leaving them facing "months of delays trying to reclaim their own money".
ASIC says the money can be claimed "at any time by the rightful owner", but banks have pointed out the process can take as long as six weeks.
Toowong resident Adrian Duffy is now looking at a lengthy battle to have his savings restored. The 75-year-old spent 21 days in hospital following quintuple heart bypass surgery and a second operation in April. When he and his wife, 57-year-old Mary-Jane, went to check their Suncorp account, they discovered their balance had plummeted from $22,616 to zero. A note on the May 1 entry read: "Closing WDL Govt unclaimed monies."
The couple had saved for 14 years in preparation for major health-related costs.Suncorp claims a letter was sent at the end of March notifying the account - held in Mrs. Duffy's name - had been inactive for more than three years and would be closed if no action was taken. It says attempts were made to call the couple on April 16, followed by an "account closed" letter on April 30.
Mr and Mrs. Duffy are adamant they received no warnings of the closure of the account. "I called it stealing," Mr Duffy said.
"My understanding of the definition of stealing is to take something without somebody's knowledge and not tell them. As far as I'm concerned, that's exactly what happened - (the Government) took it without telling us."
The couple are working to recover the money, but say they were lucky to have other savings. "If we didn't have the money elsewhere, we would now have to be paying for cardiologists, visits to surgeons, ECGs, x-rays, whatever is involved in the follow up," he said.
"We would have to find money to pay them, because those people aren't going to say to you, 'we'll wait six weeks'.
Ironically, the Treasury claims these ‘reforms’ were designed to "help reunite Australians with their lost money sooner, and protect them from being eroded by fees, charges and inflation." The spin team must have really pulled out all the stops to come up with that one.
The good news for the Duffy’s is that Suncorp has restored the account as a ‘one off’ action due to their circumstances and they’re being good customers over the years. They will work with the Duffy’s to reclaim the original amount.
There was a time not so long ago, when you could leave your change on the bar while you went for a piss and could expect it to be there when you returned. Those days are long gone, even in provincial towns.
In those days though, the law was there to protect your belongings from theft. These days the law is there to do the stealing.
The moral of the story is “Keep your hand on your wallet if the government is around.”