SCATHING: Kenneth Hayne made special mention of NAB's CEO and chairman.
SCATHING: Kenneth Hayne made special mention of NAB's CEO and chairman. News Corp

No value in listening to banks and their apologists


IT WAS a fairly historic day in Australia yesterday.

Kenneth Hayne released his royal commission into the banks and it wasn't pretty for the Big Four, especially the NAB, which copped a particularly brutal spray.

That was fairly predictable.

And just as predictably, apologists were out yesterday already mounting a defence, hours before Treasurer Josh Frydenberg even reached the microphone.

According to former prime minister Tony Abbott, whose economic philosophies don't really jell, individual bankers who have done wrong should be punished but Australia doesn't need its system "gummed up" with excessive regulation.

Umm, isn't that what got us into this position in the first place?

It's why Hayne's recommendations include regulatory overhaul.

Abbott also suggested on Ray Hadley's radio show that the banking system itself wasn't rotten.

"In this era when no one ever takes personal responsibility for anything, when something goes wrong we assume it's a systemic fault as opposed to an individual's fault," he said.

Really? Did he miss the more than 130 witnesses who gave evidence? Need I repeat the unsavoury stories the rest us all heard, loud and clear?

This morning, Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh was out saying we needed to tread carefully with some of Hayne's recommendations, which she said the banks aren't on board with.

Who cares?

Whether they're on board or not is hardly the question we should ask.

It's more enlightening to ask why they don't support these recommendations. Is it because they strike at the heart of the banks' predatory behaviour?

The apologists have also been out in force, crying about mortgage brokers whose commissions Hayne wants gone.

Do they really care about mortgage brokers? The banks didn't seem to care much about anyone before now.

The free market is an essential foundation in any modern liberal democracy, none more so than a trading nation like Australia.

But it has to be a fair market or it doesn't work. Everyone has to play by the rules, and banks have not been.

Surely proper regulation and policing of banking, in who the public places a unique trust, would not leave the system "gummed up".

The banks' cheer squad will no doubt be out in force to frustrate that process, arguing the costs will be to great.

That ignores the reality that weak regulation has already cost society a hell of a lot more.

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