By Joe Montero
Anger is building around how the Morrison government is handling the release of the Commissioner Haynes’ report from the bank Royal Commission.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the Prime minister and other senior figured in the government, have kept what the government will actually do, close to their chests. The problem is, with an election in sight, there is plenty of promise to implement the recommendations in the report, but no substance or time line.
The suspicion is, that this is about buying time and sweeping the matter under the carpet.
All indications are, that any changes will be left in the hands of the regulators. The trouble is that they are part of the problem. Misconduct would not have gone nearly as far as it did if there had been proper regulation. Expect very little change.
Commissioner Haynes gave the regulators a special serve. For knowing what’s going on and sitting on their hands. He suggested taking the responsibility from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and handing it over to a Department of Public Prosecutions style agency with teeth.
Nobody wants to hear the treasurer boo-hoo-hooing and saying sorry. What people want to know is, what decisive action is going to be taken to put an end to it and make those responsible for wrongdoing accountable.
Meanwhile, we hear the Bankers Association suggesting that the findings are a wakeup call (could they say anything else), and promises the banks are already starting to regulate themselves better. Can they be trusted? Not on your life.
Here is the danger. If the coalition manages to return to government, the most probable scenario is a tilt at bank self-regulation. We know where this has led us before.
The government had been dragged in by the weight of public opinion, internal division and restlessness within the backbench. In the process it lost substantial control. Imagine what could have been revealed if the terms of reference had been broader. As it is, the Morrison government still doesn’t like what has come out of the exercise one little bit, and find themselves trying to mop up the spill.
Everyone knows that there has long been a connection between the government and the banks. They and their major shareholders are significant contributors to the Liberal and National parties. These days, they do not hand out money directly. It would be bad public relations. But they do pass it along through other channels.
CEO’s and other senior bank figures sit on a host of organisations and committees, where they regularly rub shoulders with senior politicians.
Just how cosy their association is and the lengths to which the government went to prevent proper investigation of alleged wrongdoings, has been revealed through letters and Emails that have come into the hands of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
Most important, is a draught letter provided Ken Henry, the head of the Treasury and number one at the National Australia Bank (NAB), to Scott Morrison when he was Treasurer. It was signed by the chiefs of the four banks, and concerns the “thoughtfully drafted” terms of reference provided, plus a suggestion that if there is a report back “in a timely fashion,” the royal commission could go ahead under the circumstances.
Who set up the Royal Commission, the government or the banks?
This should be a scandal in its own right, but much of the media has chosen to ignore is, especially the Murdoch stable.
It is damning, nevertheless.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said in a released statement.
“These documents show just how closely the Morrison Government was working with the big banks to shape the direction and limit the time available for the Banking Royal Commission.
“The fact that the banks even provided Morrison with a draft of their letter to vet before shows the extent of this collusion. The banks must have believed they had an opportunity to influence the way the Morrison Government set up the Royal Commission – and they took it.
“In light of the underwhelming final report from the Royal Commission’s report, it raises serious questions. Would a longer, better resourced inquiry have led exposed even more deeply entrenched wrongdoing and recommended greater reforms? Would more resources have enabled the establishment of a law enforcement task force separate from the failed regulators?
“This is another piece of evidence that the Morrison Government is protecting the big end of town.”
“Scott Morrison has to come clean with the Australian people and disclose the full extent of their dealings with the banks in the lead up to this Commission”.