It was Otto Von Bismarck who made the observation that:
‘No one should see how laws or sausages are made. To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making’
With what’s been revealed over the last few weeks, the same could be said about elements at the highest level of the banking and financial services industry.
In the first couple of decades of the 21st century we are starting to get a glimpse of how things are done. How the financial sausages are made at the big end of town.
Is this a new thing or has it always been this way? Is it only now with the aid of technology and the instant availability of information via the likes of talk radio, podcasts and the 24/7 news cycle and the individuals determination to speak up and be seen and heard, and apply pressure with the extra aid of the likes of social media that this has been at all possible?
In previous years perhaps the corporates were just more able to contain and bury their corrupt behaviour and practices because their profiles were seen to be beyond reproach by customers who lived in a more naive, trusting, respectful and gullible time.
People also were’t as articulate nor had the ability to cut through the impenetrable veil of corporate bureaucracy as well as not having the access to politicians and media both social and traditional that are available today and just a few key strokes away.
It seems that for far too long they’ve been hiding behind their highly respected image, the sandstone facades of Martin Place and their phallic buildings and perhaps it is a further hangover from the corporate cowboy days of Alan Bond and Christopher Skase of the 1980’s and the jiggery pokery with mechanisms like CDO’s that triggered the 2008 GFC, where managers held to a “whatever it takes” mindset to attain their KPI’s and pocket their bonuses.
Paul Keating as Treasurer in 1990 famously said “this is the recession we had to have” well almost 30 years on and “this is the banking Royal Commission we had to have..”
This is the same Royal Commission that the Prime Minister and the treasurer and many others fought to deny the Australian people for years, using the scare tactics that it would destroy confidence both domestically and internationally in the banking system.
To hell with that. Let the cards fall where they may. It’s time to clean out the Augean stables.
I would have thought that observers would admire the fact that we are unafraid to expose our financial services and banking industry to the disinfectant of sunlight.
While playing hardball on setting up this Royal Commission it’s worth remembering that Malcolm Turnbull, so as to neutralise a political situation, thought nothing of pulling on a Royal commission into the Don Dale youth detention centre in Darwin within 12 hours on the back of a biased and deceptively edited 4 Corners program.
In stridently trying to deny a banking Royal Commission Turnbull either knew what the digging would reveal or again he had was a naïf, a babe in the woods, out of his depth and had no idea. His overweening confidence that he knew what he was talking about was redolent of his lawyer like, sweeping and soaring rhetorical overreach with respect to Barnaby Joyce’s citizenship that “..the leader of the National Party, the deputy Prime Minister is qualified to sit in this house and the high court will so hold..”
And of course as we now know the High Court “didn’t so hold.”
ASIC (Australian Security and Investments Commission) was supposed to be the tough cop on the beat but obviously they’re either to close to or have been captured by those they’re meant to be policing in a case of Stockholm Syndrome
It’s been suggested that the Royal Commission was unnecessary and that ASIC should have just been allowed to do its job but obviously they weren’t doing the job. Whether they were undermanned or under funded or under resourced in other respects, who knows and even if they were, what’s been revealed in 10 days at the Royal Commission would have taken years under ASIC and lost it impact.
It would have been a slow drip feed of stories over months or years that may or may not have made the news and even then probably only the business press, financial pages or a human interest piece here and there on Current Affair or 4 Corners, and then forgotten.
As we can now see and understand, the nuclear option, the big hit, to get people’s attention is what was required.
And now we have the government in their typical knee jerk reaction frantically backfilling in an attempt to create the impression that they’re on the case, announcing big new fines and penalties.
Why not shake up the regulators and make them apply the existing penalties?
From all appearances it’s hard to see the difference between the thugs of the CFMEU and the MUA and the big end of town. Both seem to treat the penalties of the regulator in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars as just a cost of doing business.
As Graham Richardson wrote recently:
“..Big corporates have been absolutely confident they can treat ASIC as mugs, because they are. If AMP is so cocky that it can admit to wilfully misleading the regulator on more than 20 occasions, it must have been pretty confident that a slap on the wrist was the worst penalty it could be dealt..”
It’s worth remembering that these same outfits under the public spotlight, squirming in the dock are the same no nonsense, purse lipped, politically correct finger waggers who think nothing of lecturing us mere mortals on the morality on everything from SSM, to tolerance, diversity and inclusion.
All while charging fees to people who’ve been dead for ten years. What kind of twisted morality is that?
In recent days the government has suggested that if Kenneth Hayne, the Royal Commissioner, seeks an extension of the twelve months allocated to the commission, the government will consider such a request.
Oh really. In reality the government will have no choice.
With everything that’s been revealed so far with more to come, realpolitik and the looming 2019 election, will dictate that Turnbull has no choice but to extend the time for the Royal Commission if requested or will be seen to be reinforcing perceptions that he is looking after the big end of town.
Quite rightly Shorten and Labor will milk the issue and bash and belt him all over the park.
But we shouldn’t be surprised if Turnbull again makes a wrong call. He’s done it many times before. The one thing he’s good at is getting it wrong.