So, I have some bad news.
I’ve spent this week fighting a virus.
It’s dangerous, it’s destructive … and it’s about to explode, and potentially infect millions of people.
Let me explain: it’s a financial cousin of the coronavirus which I’m calling the ‘Payday Lending Pandemic’.
See, this weekend, in kitchens and living rooms across the country, people are stressing out about their finances:
The single mum who works as a waitress, who just had her hours cut, and has no food in the fridge to feed her kids.
The small business owner who sits with his wife, worried about how he’ll pay his loyal staff and make the rent.
The father who drives an Uber to feed his family, who gets a nasty cough — but has no sick pay or entitlements.
They’re all terrified.
Yet there’s a small group of multi-millionaire businessmen who are rubbing their greedy little hands with glee:
See, up until now they’ve made their fortunes by preying on the mentally disabled, the addicted and the sick.
Yet this corona crisis is about to open the payday loan market up to millions of brand-new customers.
In a moment, I’m going to ask you — yes you — to help me stop them. But first I want to explain how dangerous and contagious this Payday Lending Pandemic is:
This week the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate to 0.25% … yet payday lenders can legally charge their customers an outrageous 407.6% per annum (not a typo) for a one month loan.
And, while they’re marketed as ‘short-term loans up to $2,000’, the reality is these loans are designed to put vulnerable people into a long-term debt spiral, where one loan is used to pay off another. And another. And another.
After all, the payday lenders know that when all else fails they have a guaranteed payer:
Or, more accurately, Centrelink (which we collectively pay for through our taxes).
The payday predators can swoop in and snatch their clients’ Centrelink payments before they can spend it on food, medicine or schoolbooks. And that’s exactly what they do (they also pull the same trick with people’s wages).
Now I’m going to make you feel really angry.
The Government knows that payday lending and consumer leases (hello Radio Rentals) are on the nose.
And that’s why, four-and-a-half years ago, they decided to do something about it.
So they launched … drum roll … a REVIEW.
And surprise, surprise, that review came back and recommended that these mongrels have a muzzle put on their lending practices, otherwise known as the Small Amount Credit Contract reforms (SACC for short).
Done and dusted, right?
Oh, no, no, senor!
In fact, the Government has sat on the recommended reforms for nearly four years, and as late as last week they said they still need more time to consider.
What the hell is going on?
I’ll tell you what the hell is going on.
The businessmen who own these payday lending outfits are seriously rich, and seriously powerful.
In fact, they’re so rich, and so powerful, that they employ an army of lobbyists to influence our politicians.
And these lobbyists are good.
They’ve tied this thing up in knots for years and NOTHING has happened. Which is exactly what they’re paid to do.
Meanwhile the payday lenders can continue making hundreds of millions of dollars off the backs of battlers.
And here’s where it gets downright disgusting:
With the corona-crisis, the Government is (rightly) handing out billions of dollars in an effort to stimulate the economy and look after society’s most vulnerable.
However, some of this stimulus will actually end up stimulating the pockets of the multi-millionaire payday lenders.
That sucks, right?
Now of course there have been some heroes — not-for-profit consumer advocates — fighting the good fight against these predators, and their lobbyists.
Truthfully, though, it’s like they’ve been in the ring with Mike Tyson … for almost five years.
I met up with one of these battle-scarred boxers — Gerard Brody, CEO of the Consumer Action Law Centre.
“After all this time we’ve almost given up”, says Gerard.
“We can’t even get so much as a meeting with the responsible Minister. The Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, is in charge of implementing these reforms, but it feels like he just doesn’t care.”
So the lobbyists have won, right?
Ding, ding — it’s time for you and me to get in the ring.
We may not be able to do anything about this damn coronavirus, but we can sure as hell wash our hands of this Payday Lending Pandemic. Even better, I’ve found us a vaccine, and his name is the Michael Sukkar MP.
I just reckon the honorable member needs a little reminder of just who he’s working for.
We the people.
So, given I’ve been ‘social distancing’, I’ve had a bit of time on my hands. Maybe too much time. Enough time to track down his personal email address:
Now here’s where you come in.
I need you to send Michael Sukkar an email right now.
In the subject line you could write: “Look after the little people, not the lobbyists”.
And in the body of the email you could write: “Do your job and put a muzzle on these mongrels right now!”
Now look, I don’t want to be a hater. I honestly believe that every politician — on both sides of the aisle — wants to look after Aussies who are under a huge amount of financial stress right now. And I know that if enough people email Michael Sukkar this weekend then he’ll take notice of us.
I’ll be back next week to answer all your questions about the corona-crisis. And I genuinely hope that, when I do, I’ll be able to tell you that millions of hard-up Aussies have dodged the Payday Lending Pandemic (even if we have to blow up the Government’s email server to do it).
It’s time to wash our hands of this pandemic — and if there’s anyone up to the job, it’s Michael Sukkar.
Tread Your Own Path!
P.S. If you’re reading this you’re probably in social isolation, so you too have some time on your hands. Instead of reading scary headlines, let’s make some ourselves.
Please, spend 30 seconds — right now — and send an email to Michael.Sukkar.MP@aph.gov.au.
As a society we will be judged by how we look after our most vulnerable.
Let’s fight for them.