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BFCSA: Heard the one about the bankers and the inquiry?

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Heard the one about the bankers and the inquiry?  (extracts)

Updated Mon 7 Apr 2014, 8:05am AEST

If the Government's wide-ranging inquiry into the financial system wasn't so serious, you could dismiss the whole thing as a bad joke, writes Ian Verrender.

Talk about a laugh...


...."Once upon a time it was a one-way street for politicians. When booted out of office, they usually attempted to parlay their connections to desperate clients in return for cash. Disturbingly, the lines of accountability have become blurred even further these days.

In Sinodinos's case, the seamless evolution from political analyst and top level prime ministerial advisor to lobbyist and industry player and then back to high office has exposed what should be a fundamental flaw in the Australian political system.

But no one seems to care about conflicting interests anymore. And Australia's heavily concentrated and hugely powerful financial services industry has exploited this, and, in the process, become accustomed to getting what it wants.

The campaign to unwind key parts of the previous government's FOFA legislation was funded and prosecuted largely by Australia's big banks, through its various lobby groups.

The bankers themselves preferred to keep their heads down.

Of the 57 comments submitted to the Government on the proposed winding back in consumer protection, seven applicants requested anonymity. Unsurprisingly, no matter how hard you search, you won't find a document from the big four banks and AMP - the biggest players in retail superannuation and financial advice. At least, they were not among those available to the public...."

..."Bank tellers and their colleagues will be selling products for bonuses and commissions, regardless of whether they are suited to their clients' needs. It will be what bankers laughingly refer to as a "fee-for-all".

The whole thing even has financial planners up in arms. The few remaining independents left in the business are facing extinction as the banks squeeze them out of the game.

The financial crisis was a boon to Australia's big four banks. Despite being bailed out by taxpayers, via federal government debt and deposit guarantees, they consolidated their power, emerged with 83 per cent of the home lending market, enhanced their profits and rewarded their executives with the country's highest salaries.

In opposition, Treasurer Joe Hockey mercilessly attacked the power of the major banks, regularly accusing Wayne Swan of lacking the bottle to take them on and act in the interest of ordinary Australians.



Even before the recent round of market concentration, the financial services industry was not averse to flexing its muscle.

In disturbing revelations last week, via Fairfax Media and ABC's The Business, former Australian Securities and Investment Commission lawyer James Wheeldon accused the regulator of being in the pocket of the financial services industry.

In a submission to a senate inquiry, Wheeldon claimed ASIC relaxed the laws surrounding online superannuation calculators that allowed them to be used as marketing tools, after intense lobbying by the major banks.

At one stage, he was forced to report to a lawyer seconded to the regulator from MLC - the financial services arm of NAB - who had openly declared a conflict of interest.

But don't expect to hear much of this at the upcoming wide-ranging inquiry into our financial system...."

In opposition, Treasurer Joe Hockey mercilessly attacked the power of the major banks, regularly accusing Wayne Swan of lacking the bottle to take them on and act in the interest of ordinary Australians.

They were overcharging. They were ripping off consumers.

A then incensed Hockey - once dismissed by ANZ chief executive Mike Smith "taking economics lessons from Hugo Chavez" - declared he would establish a full inquiry into Australia's financial system.

He's been true to his word. But the anti-bank rhetoric has abated. And his anointed head of the inquiry David Murray recently has been uttering comments that, rather than suggest any kind of radical overhaul, are music to the ears of our major bankers.

Murray grew up in banking, starting as a teller in a suburban Sydney Commonwealth Bank branch, rising to the top of the tree and staying there for more years than many of his subordinates would have liked.

There's no denying he knows banking better than just about anyone. But independent?

If it wasn't so serious, you could dismiss the whole thing as a joke.

Ian Verrender is the ABC's business editor.

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  • doyla66
    doyla66 Tuesday, 08 April 2014


    Australia needs a government and regulator who can stop the banking cartel in their tracks. Forced clean up of the industry is a must and the only way to achieve this is through a Royal Commission into the banking industry. Government and regulators are weak and pandering to the bankers needs which is only going to make matters worse for the country while making banks more greedy and profitable.

  • doyla66
    doyla66 Tuesday, 08 April 2014

    Good observations, Ian. This inquiry will be one great big failure. What are the Banks feeding Joe Hockey to make him so obviously tame?
    And what were we saying about prominent Australians having a great joke, regardless of what they were being accused of? Mr Sinodinos looks like a financial rock star enjoying his popularity - not someone going to ICAC to be examined and exposed for possible corruption. No shame - it's all bluff and hearty, gamesmanship all around.
    The time will come when corruption becomes the norm in Australia and the decent people will be regarded as losers for not playing the game. That's what it's like when organised crime runs a country.

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