Disgraceful to see that National and ACT have voted down Labour MP Carol Beaumont’s moderate and sensible bill to take action against loan sharks. This report captures the atmosphere of what was a pretty fierce debate in Parliament.
Holding back tears, Beaumont told the House she was sad the government’s not taking responsibility on the issue, and mad the voice of the community was not being listened to.
“Stories abound of people hurt by irresponsible lending and excessive interest rates,” she said.
“I know of a Tongan family who borrowed $3200 to repair their car…they ended up with no car and still owe almost $10,000.”
Charles Chauvel came out strongly too.
“Loan sharks target the most vulnerable people with obscene interest rates,” he said.
“They never expect to see their loans repaid in full…we have to take action now because there has never been a better time for loan sharks – 75% of people are earning less than $45,000 a year.”
The fact is these aren’t legitimate businesses operating in a free and fair environment. As Te Ururoa Flavell points out in the article, loan sharks’ interest rates can exceed 400% a year and compound to 1000%, and they frequently use threats, blackmail and bullying to get their money.
Putting this bill to select committee seems eminently reasonable. It was an extremely moderate bill and every party except National and its psychos mates in ACT voted in support. But all we got from the Government was weak spin and misdirection, while they sat there and committed to doing nothing.
It’s a question of priorities I guess, and in National’s worldview stopping Kiwis getting ripped off by loan sharks is less important than allowing our bosses to sack us unfairly or force us get a medical certificate for one day off with a tummy bug.
Full credit to Carol Beaumont anyway. Let’s hope she keeps up the fight.