LAST week’s interim findings of the Royal Commission into the Australian banking sector are a statement of the bleeding obvious.
Frankly, it’s embarrassing to think the motherhood statement to emerge from all this is that banks put profits before people.
The subsequent actions of banking executives tapping into their own vein of self-pity, shame and pious rhetoric as one after one they admit to being very naughty boys and girls, but also expect the right to continue on is also unnerving.
These millionaire business leaders say they are ashamed about what’s been uncovered, but surely, they don’t expect us to believe that they didn’t know this was going on?
Let’s face it. Australian banks are among the most profitable in the world, and they only got this way because customers paid for it.
The banks have been brutal in their exploitation of customers, and some of the testimony from victims at this Royal Commission, yes victims, has been astounding, if not breathtaking.
The truth is, we are all victims.
The standover tactics that bordered on extortion, the poor behaviour, the out of cycle interest rate rises that have been inflicted upon home owners struggling to live their version of the Australian dream, have at times been un-Australian… they are an unfair imposition, levied to protect profit margins and therefore the bonuses of bank executives.
No bank that says ‘we’re in this together’ can be taken seriously. The truth is we (homeowners) are in this together.
And the banks are also in this together, but the two groups are mutually exclusive.
The royal commission will amount to nothing unless change is now forced upon the banking sector.
Lives have been destroyed by the past brutal insistence and actions of banks, and nothing anyone does can rewrite the past.
This royal commission has drawn a line under the massive record profits the banks have extracted, and not always earned, at the expense of customers.
Seemingly, customers have been used as an ATM that the banks can turn to and whack when all else fails, or when they simply need to top up their margins.
The abuse of this stranglehold position is not sustainable and the signals emerging from the interim report show it will no longer be tolerated.
Given the banks near monopoly status, regulators must now act to insure there is greater competition for banking services and financial products.
The four pillar big bank policy has allowed each of the participants to run riot, perhaps safe in the knowledge that their bad behaviour was being mirrored by the other banks, so that made everything okay.
Armed with the findings of an investigation it did not want, the government must accept responsibility for what comes next.
Whatever that is, it needs to re-balance the equation and afford customers a better deal.
ASIC and APRA stand condemned for their ineffectual existence through much of the past couple of decades.
And the federal government has been embarrassed by the testimony and now the interim findings of a royal commission it didn’t want or think was needed.
You can’t be a government of, or for the people, if you’re that tone deaf.
We all hope that whatever does come next is actually good for customers, and not just good for the banks.