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The government owes voters an apology – opposing this banking commission was wrong

Katharine Murphy comments in The Guardian (19.4.18) that, in the wake of alarming revelations of corporate malpractice at the banking royal commission, there are bigger issues at stake than the Turnbull government’s embarrassment: namely, whether voters can still trust our institutions.

‘Given this isn’t complicated, here’s what should happen now.

‘The Turnbull government, if it has any sense of right and wrong, and any remaining shred of political judgment, should say to voters, without dissembling or weasel words: “Sorry, we got this one badly wrong.”

‘The collective mea culpa needs to be short and sharp, given we were all here and we all saw what happened.

‘We all saw the Turnbull government resist consistent calls for a banking royal commission after a string of damaging reports about scandals in the financial services industry. We saw that stonewalling play out for months.

‘… The banking royal commission has produced, in its opening stages, ample evidence to justify its own existence, and to validate all the news reporting and the political advocacy from Labor, the Greens and others that preceded its establishment.

‘So instead of being too tricky by half, and suggesting now it is marvellous we are having the inquiry, and signalling you are, of course, open to extending it, while conveniently omitting the back story – the government needs to eat crow with some humility and sincerity.

‘It is, frankly, ridiculous for senior government figures to demand financial institutions justify their conduct while declining to explain their own.’

Bonfire of the bankers

Milind Sathye writes in Inside Story (23.4.18) that the federal government is toughening penalties for banking malpractice at last, but the regulators can do much more.

‘hen it was announced that the financial services royal commission would be looking not just at banks but at the entire industry, including the superannuation funds, bankers were no doubt delighted. With one year to report and a vast landscape to traverse, surely the heat on their part of the industry would be less intense? To their dismay, revelations at the commission about their own behaviour, and that of other financial institutions, have captured the headlines and given everyone, not least the dilatory Turnbull government, a jolt.

‘Already the commission has claimed a spectacular wicket with the departure of AMP’s chief executive, Craig Meller, and the position of other institutions’ executives could prove untenable as more revelations emerge. Latest indications suggest that the commission’s work will be extended by a year.

‘As of 13 April, the commission had received 3433 public submissions, an overwhelming 69 per cent of which relate to banks, with 8 per cent covering the super funds and 7 per cent financial advice. Though the commission doesn’t have the power to order compensation payments or resolve disputes, the financial institutions will find it hard not to recompense the victims of their misconduct, and the regulators — the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, or ASIC, and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority — will be forced to act more firmly against erring banks.’

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