Australian banks come undone by greed

Newsflash: The land of ‘the fair go’ achieves world-class corruption levels in its financial systems because of ‘greed’. No doubt it has confirmed our worst fears about crooked banks, insurance companies and related financial institutions, but will the Australian banking royal commission really change anything? It has recognised that the two basic problems are the ‘greed’ of banks and the ‘wilful blindness’ of the regulator ASIC who was supposed to protect everyone (but didn’t) – but will these issues really be addressed? What should the commissioner Hayne really demand or try to implement for real ‘cultural change’ – putting a few bankers into jail for really being ‘crooks’ or something more?

The interim findings of the Royal Commission on the Australian banking sector were delivered in recent weeks (1). And surprise, surprise… the basic message was that our banks, insurance companies and related financial institutions (and the corporate cowboys who run them or represent this system) are all basically so greedy (i.e. put profits before people) (2) that in recent years they even resorted to ripping off dead people as well as dishonestly rip-off as well unfairly gouge the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society (3). And they have done so ruthlessly without any real conscience or human decency at all basically… a particular case in point is the many struggling farmers who have been unfairly sold up, bankrupted and generally had their lives ruined in recent years (so often by ignorant and arrogant as well as ruthlessly greedy and even plain dishonest desk jockeys) (4).

We posted a related blog when the royal commission was announced about six months ago (5) where we projected that things (re: crooks running our systems) are as bad as have been found to be the case by commissioner Haynes (6).  There are some months to go before the final report (and related recommendations for action) from the inquiry are announced. However there already worrying signs that (as far as the government is concerned) like some other Royal Commissions in the past this one might well just be largely a PR stunt and talkfest – with some useful awareness-raising, some institutions and individuals ‘named and shamed’ and but ultimately with nothing really changing. This is indicated by how Deputy PM Josh Frydenberg has cautioned against strong action with vague projections about needed ‘cultural change’ that will likely remain empty words to a large degree (7). It is also to be gauged by the extent of disingenuous apologising as PR stunts by people who don’t really seem to be very ‘sorry’ at all (8).

Although, I think he may have just underestimated how strong the public anger, disillusionment and disgust has become. This is so not just with banks but with gutless politicians as well as ASIC and other bureaucrats (who seem only interested in giving themselves big pay rises for doing nothing and turning a ‘blind eye’) (9)… and how this whole affair has really confirmed that traditional Australian values of the ‘fair go’ have been buried by so many of the people and institutions who influence our future. Just the other day I was reflecting to a friend how Australia is now the land with world champions in ‘self-interested ass-covering’ (i.e. greed and wilful blindness linked together as both influential method and art form in Australia today)… especially in terms of my experience how other (especially ‘third-world’) countries often have more direct forms of corruption but here in Australia people tend to or are encouraged to be blind to how the corruption in Australia is many ways so much worse than most other countries, and the extent of which the average Australian (and Australian society more generally) is being regularly gouged, rorted, and ripped off to a greater extent and whichever way they turn. The friend had to agree I had a point – and put up no real argument about the extent of the problem, as we then turned to consider what can be done to help win the war against the crooks… (10)
– CKR, 13/10/2018


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