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
"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
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
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.”