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April 19, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: Banks are bastards

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I saw the weary farmer,
Tilling his sod and loam
I heard the auction hammer
Knocking down his home.
But the banks are made of marble
With a guard on every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for. – The Weavers.

Okay, you may say, that may be the old style leftie view, class warfare, the politics of envy, another time in another place. but we have moved on. But in fact the loathing of the banks as the greedy, uncaring Mr Moneybags prototype of everything and everyone that personifies exploitation and inequality has continued, which is why a very large proportion of the current Australian population is prepared to back Bill Shorten’s call for a royal commission into the bastards.

Banking was conceived in iniquity and born in sin – Josiah Stamp.

Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues insist that there is absolutely no reason for a royal commission; it was be a long and costly process, and would achieve nothing; the existing regulators are more than sufficient for the task The Australian Securities and Investments Commission in particular is a tough cop on the beat, with all the powers and more of a Royal Commission. This argument was somewhat undermined when it was recalled that the government had in fact cut $120 million out of ASIC finds, which the ASIC Commissioner Greg Medcraft said was preventing the Commission from undertaking proactive investigations. The money is likely to be hastily restored, but the belief that ASIC is a toothless tiger, unable or unwilling to take on the big end of town, will persist

Rather than justice for all, we are evolving into a system of justice for those who can afford it. We have banks that are not only too big to fail but are too big to be accountable. – Joseph E Stiglitz

The banks, of course, reject any inquiry, any serious questioning, of their relentless desire for profits. A Royal Commission will, they thunder, undermine confidence. But surely that is precisely what their constant shenanigans, when they are exposed not by ASIC but by the media, are doing? Well no, because while those may worry the public and their customers, they have no real effect on their shareholders or investors – nor, least of all, their directors and executives. For the normal punters, the banks had become a closed fiefdom, a law unto themselves.

I believe the banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than the standing armies – Thomas Jefferson

And the banks, with their consistently record profits, have resources to stare down politicians, or, if necessary, to fund them. Last week it was reported that the National Australia Bank was running a fund raiser for the Higgins 200 Club, an organisation which supports Kelly O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer, of course, is the Assistant Treasurer and a vehement opponent of Shorten’s proposal. She will be joined on the platform by her boss. Scott Morrison, and by a couple of other wealthy and conservative worthies. The bank hastened to explain that it sponsored a lot of events, and contributed to both major parties. It is not clear how that is supposed to reassure the public.

This is a song to celebrate banks
Because they are full of money and you go into them and all you here is clink and clanks,
Or maybe a sound like the wind in the trees in the hills,
Which is the rustling of the thousand dollar bills.
– Ogden Nash

The royal commission into the banks will not be a front line election issue; but nor will the reinstatement or otherwise of the Building and Construction Commission. But both will be underlying the campaign and in that Shorten has probably gazumped Tony Abbott. Although the ABCC bill will dominate the parliament for the next week. Labor has already signalled it is preparing for a quick vote – and if that is out of the way, the opposition gain enough crossbench support to keep the Senate, at least, sitting for another fortnight, and in that case the banks can expect a major workout. And if the polls are any judge, the public is rather more concerned with the banks than with the CMFEU.

What is robbing a bank compared to founding one? – Bertolt Brecht.

In Australia at least, most people would probably agree (if after some a persuasion) that the banks may not be inherently bad; they are happy to entrust them with their savings to safeguard and manage. The childhood image of transferring the piggy bank to the friendly local teller is a powerful one. But of course the banks have gone way beyond that friendly image. They now involve investments, superannuation, even insurance, and this is where the trouble really starts. Even if ASIC is empowered to look into such issues, it has clearly failed to deal with them and the banks have been seen to have gone rogue.

It is well that the people of this nation do not understand the banking and monetary system, for if they did, there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. – Henry Ford

The government’s initial reaction to Shorten’s move was to dismiss it as stunt – after all Labor had actually voted against a Greens motion for a royal commission, so why take him seriously? Shorten’s quick answer was that that was then and this is now – a lot of happened since then. And Malcolm Turnbull, as an ex-merchant banker, is not the ideal warrior to lead the defence; his immensely lucrative career in Goldman Sachs will be more of a hindrance than a help. Bankers, are, if anything, even less trusted than the banks; a ‘hug a banker’ campaign is unlikely to catch on.

Q: What do you call a busload of bankers going over a cliff? A: A good start – Anon











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  1. As usual Mungo, direct to the point.

    I am no Labor lover, but agree with them on the need for a Royal Commission. (I am also no lover of the other greedy bunch either just for balance).
    Why can’t we have some decent, fair minded independents? Answer: probably because no-one would vote for them! What chance has democracy? We have Tweedle Dumb &Tweedle dumber! Where are the visionaries?

    In my long life, I have seen many pollies elected. I think I could count the goodies on one hand. Lately we seem to have Right Wing Pollies, & even Righter alternatives.
    My take is that the competitive User-pays system seems to be open to greed & Monopolisation. The Companies seem to not pay any tax, so the Middle income earner shoulders the tax burden.
    Hopefully our children might wake up & change the system.
    I feel we need a fair, funded Medical system that has universal coverage to a reasonable level (Anyone who wants more should insure or pay privately, without any tax deduction, so the level of funding can be adequate. If Europe can do it, so can we)
    I want fair, equitable education. Gonski is a start, but we need to ensure all citizens have access to Tertiary education at a reasonable cost. Personally, I feel if people work in Australia & pay reasonable tax, the Hex debt should waive. However, if they leave Australia, they should pay a form of bond so another can use the funding.
    Government funding for Australian research. This current use of CSIRO for commercial funding/research is doomed to failure. Primary research is where the new discoveries come from, then Commercial interests can continue as long as the benefit is in Australia’s interest. (We lost the Solar storage to California because John Howard would not support it: Why?)

    Step off soap box, & back to lurk!

    Think about your next vote people!


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