Wednesday 8 August 2012

Australian Exceptionalism: Home Loans Edition.

Australia, it is well-known, escaped the GFC relatively untouched (we won't go into the "relatively") pretty much alone among developed countries. Therefore, Australia is exceptional.

But, why?

For many reasons, experts and talking heads say. Here's part of Gerard Henderson's take:
"Australia, on the other hand, has one of the strongest economies in the Western world with relatively low unemployment, primarily due to the economic reforms undertaken between 1983 and 2007 by the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments. Also, the Australian financial system was well-regulated. Here the reforms initiated by Peter Costello, to ensure the independence of the Reserve Bank and to establish the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, had a most beneficial effect when the global financial crisis occurred in 2008." (My emphasis. See here)
Mind you, Henderson was not alone in this evaluation. Here's from former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry's own pen:
"Australia's banking industry has emerged from the GFC in a comparatively strong position. Its reputation globally has been enhanced". (See here)
I could go on, but you get the idea: we're so fucking good. Actually, it's not us, but those in power who are so fucking good.

Well, perhaps. But before we throw them a well-deserved party, read "Australia's sub-prime lending", by Leith van Onselen:
"Back in April, The Australian reported how Australia's largest banks are being forced to forgive mortgage debts of borrowers granted loans based on falsified or fraudulent information supplied by mortgage brokers." (See here)
I'll be honest: I was caught with my pants down. In other words, this is news to me. And it taught me a lesson: although I deeply, viscerally despise the Murdoch press, I'll have to take a deep breath and have a look at it... occasionally. My other usual news sources never mentioned this or, if they did, I completely missed it.

In any case, Van Onselen's post links to two news items, so with the readers' forbearance:

"The Mortgage Sting" by Anthony Klan. The Australian, June 5, 2012.

"Hope for Mortgage 'Victims' with Homeowners Winning Battle Against Banks" by Anthony Klan. The Australian, June 4, 2012.


Does this mean that the end is nigh? I don't know. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, and if it was really important I suppose it would have been noticed. But, then again, who knows?

In any case, there, this is my atonement: I'll have to keep a reluctant eye on the Oz version of the Voelkischer Beobachter. Because, however exceptionally good our fearless leaders might be, in the quality of its newspapers Australia certainly is not exceptional.

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