Banking system the elephant in the room at this election

The Mercury May 15, 2019 12:50am

Ray Williams

Ray Williams is a Citizens Electoral Council (CEC) candidate for the Senate. He was in banking for 22 years and for 30 years has been in business at New Norfolk including as owner of New Norfolk Gun Shop and Williams Outdoors. He has been a Derwent Valley councillor and a national director of hardware group Mitre 10.

 

The future of Australia’s banking system is the elephant in the room in the federal election campaign.

The major parties ignore the reality of a new global financial crisis, either through negligence or wilful intent.

What’s telling is their collusion to ram through a “bail-in” policy to protect the banks, even using people’s bank deposits if necessary — before the Banking Royal Commission was convened — which indicates they are well aware of an impending crisis, but are prepared to sacrifice people and the economy to “save the banks”.

The royal commission highlighted the banks’ egregious practices of overcharging, cross-selling their own products and exorbitant commissions.

However, the banks and Treasury, who wrote the terms of reference for the royal commissioner, never intended to change the structure of how banks operate, nor reveal the true nature of the actual crimes of the banks — their speculative gambling bets through their investment divisions — nor their inability to pay out on those bets.

The concern of the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC) is about preventing an economic Armageddon in the Australian economy. Many economic experts are forecasting Australia’s banks could even trigger the next global financial crisis due to exposure to the collapsing housing bubble; subsequent decline in the construction of houses affecting many businesses in that industry; projected loss of jobs putting pressure on the serviceability of loans; loans resetting from interest-only to principal plus interest; plus declining debt to loan ratios.

The big four banks, the CBA, ANZ, NAB and Westpac, hold about 80 per cent of Australia’s bank deposits and more than 60 per cent of all residential mortgages.

On this basis alone the banks are in trouble, but even more dangerous is the over $38 trillion in speculative derivatives bets riding on those mortgages held overseas. The financial system and the banks are bankrupt, and the world is heading into another GFC. It can’t be bailed out, or bailed in!

Federal parliament passed a law in February last year — the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers and Other Measures) Act 2018 — to give the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) powers to bail-in so-called hybrid securities.

In broad terms, a bank bail-in enables a bank to use the money of its unsecured creditors to stay afloat.

But the law itself was so broadly worded that the CEC obtained legal advice which confirmed that it created a loophole that could be used to “bail in” deposits.

And if there was any doubt, banking expert Martin North and economist John Adams proved the banks are able to change the terms and conditions of their deposit accounts without notice to potentially include bail-in terms, so they can meet the definition of contractual bail-ins.

If Australia is going to survive, the banks and financial system must be reorganised under the Five-Point program proposed by the CEC, preferably at the first sitting of the new parliament:

The CEC’s Glass-Steagall bank separation Bill, which has been introduced into both houses as a private member’s Bill, must be legislated. It is modelled on the successful 1933 US Glass-Steagall Act and would force banks to be either a commercial, deposit-taking bank with government protection, or an investment bank which cannot hold deposits and would not have government backing. This would get the speculation away from the economy, and eliminate necessity for a bail-in of bank deposits in the commercial banks.

The CEC has written legislation for a national bank of credit: we can’t wait for the private banks to recover; government will need to direct credit into the economy to keep it functioning.

To prevent homelessness while the banking crisis is sorted out, the CEC has draft legislation for a moratorium on home and farm foreclosures.

The “national bank” will be the vehicle for directing government credit into a major science driver, nation-building, infrastructure program; we have to kickstart a revival of our physical productive economy.

Australia must participate in international co-operation for a new financial architecture and world economic development.