Tuesday 24 April 2018

On Whose Behalf is Australia Ruled?

The preliminary findings of the Turnbull Royal Commission on Banking are the news of the day in this Terra Australis Incognita (overseas readers curious about the background to that drama may want to check these two older posts).

The public proceedings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (its official denomination) started a couple of weeks ago. Initially the cases heard about were, in Daniel Ziffer’s words, “tragically comic”, just “awful and dumb stuff: gym owners helping to write $122 million in loans, shonky car dealers selling lemons to hard-luck customers, a gambling addict given credit card limit increases.”

Regrettable? Sure, but hardly earth shattering.

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. I was (and remain) sceptic about the whole thing: panem et circenses (the emphasis in circenses). I doubted (still do) anything substantial will come out of this and I’d be gobsmacked if the subject of possible unholy deals between the banking sector and elected officials/serving bureaucrats came to the fore, let alone if serious financial regulation was implemented. And I’d be really, really shocked to the point of risking a heart attack if, other than scapegoating the little fish, criminal prosecutions and convictions of big wigs were to follow.

Still, I must confess that last week's revelations were much more sensational: from what to me sounds like the systematic mass swindling of customers to interfering with apparently independent reports to the regulators ("Include a statement to the effect that (superannuation giant AMP CEO) Craig Meller was unaware of the practices or their illegality.") to lying directly to the regulators.

Particularly stunning were the ham-fisted attempts by Turnbull Government officials last Sunday to bullshit the public deny they for years on end stubbornly opposed any royal commission. It’s worth highlighting that the ruling National/Liberal Coalition is a mix of propertarians and conservatives whose common denominator is their fanatic pro-business stance (and, consequently, their equally fanatic hatred of trade unions). Turnbull is a former Goldman Sachs partner and that abominable creature herself, currently the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services ... was a National Australia Bank executive!!!!

The situation reached farcical proportions because the following day:


Until conclusive evidence is produced (and it remains to be seen if it is ever produced) one may still wonder what was behind that stubborn opposition to a Royal Commission (my guesses aren't reassuring, btw). But one needs not wonder anymore that those people are bullshitting us. It isn't on our behalf that they work.

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