Whatever is filling your mid-summer day – the branding muster, watering cotton or soaking the rays on a sandy beach – I want you to cast your mind back through the glazed ham and trifle haze of the festive season, back to the parliamentary killing season of 2017, when our government under intense pressure backflipped and announced a royal commission into the banking sector.
Ah, bank bashing, it’s as Australian as thrashing England in the Ashes.
Now, I hate to challenge a national pastime and I am in no way defending the banks but what do we really expect a royal commission to achieve?
Let us look at the strike rate of our most recent royal commissions.
The freshly ended royal commission into child protection and youth detention in the Northern Territory cost over $70 million and delivered outcomes that, with respect, one of the youths in detention could have come up with: close the detention centre behaving badly and look at strategies to keep youth out of detention. Earth-shattering.
How about the fundamental changes that have been delivered by the $550 million four year commission into institutional child sexual abuse?
Oh you missed those? Countless testimonials of torrid inexcusable tales, public sorrow and a new extension on the Toorak mansion of the supporting legal counsel.
The problem is little practical good or structural change has come from these public witch hunts and the banking inquiry will be the same. This royal commission has been called to save a Prime Minister’s throat.
Political point scoring will be the best outcome to arise from the two year mud-slinging match.
There is no doubt there have been atrocities and major failings in our financial institutions.
There have been countless well-publicised stories of bullying, deceit, cheating and poor decisions, to the detriment of business and life-altering impact to people’s lives.
Yet perusing the terms of reference for the commission – not something to be done on a lazy Sunday – it is evident that little will be done through this costly and lengthy process to fix any of the real failings I see within our financial system.
It’s an uncompetitive, over-regulated, reactionary sector that is stifling growth in this nation.
My fear is that the scrutiny that will flow out of this public festival of vitriol for our banking institutions will be that the already under pressure, front line people of these institutions will be drowned in further compliance from above.
Instead of having the time to get out and aim to understand a client’s business, modern bankers are completing regulatory tick boxes and deciphering client satisfaction surveys.
Gone are the days of a banker understanding their industries, their clients or, God forbid, making decisions.
More compliance pressure from the management hierarchy above will do nothing to improve culture within our banks or the outcomes the public desires.
The previous Senate inquiry has delivered us the stories highlighting the impact on people’s lives from poor decisions and misconduct within the banks and we have all watched with glee as banking CEOs squirmed under questioning.
Let us not go through it all again.
Let us just get on with the things that need to be done, foster competition within the sector, encourage Australia’s trillion dollar superannuation funds into industry lending, allow innovation in our funding models and make banking a desirable job again to fill the dearth of new talent.
Australians have been disappointed by our banks but the problems are structural – we have created a lazy yet powerful oligopoly.
I have no faith that a retired High Court judge and a dozen lawyers at $10,000 a day will be able to address that.
– Bryce Camm, Bowenville