Banking Commissioner meets cannibal

Liberal government voted against Royal Commission into Banking on 26 occasions. This is the handover from Commissioner Hayne to the Treasurer Frydenberg.

Humble petition to Commissioner Hayne
The terms of reference for the current Banking Royal Commission are to investigate malpractices in financial institutions.

The institutions under investigation are the Banks and the Superannuation Funds. Neither functions without a battery of other institutions: accountants, actuaries, auditors, rating agencies, lawyers, lobbyists and Business Schools. Furthermore, all those of auxiliaries are directly engaged in Stock Exchanges, Foreign Exchange and Futures markets. Many are global enterprises. In particular, the banks are locked into foreign banks for fund-raising.

An interrogation of malpractices by banks and retail super funds is not even half-way towards unraveling how these institutions operate if their supporting institutions are ignored. Taken together they are still less than the regime of credit essential for capitalism.

The contrast is not just between an inquiry confined to malpractices by certain financial institutions and one into an entire monetary and banking system. Even the latter would still be a million miles from an inquiry into the whole of the capitalist system. That gap is expressed in the difference between a Royal Commission and a People’s Court.

Only a People’s Court into that entire system would dare to interrogate the prevalence of the malpractices rampant in the financial sector. Meanwhile, in a gesture towards republicanism, these pages will speak of the Malpractices Commission, not a ‘Royal’ one.

Commissioner, the more shock-horror headlines tumble out of your investigations into the financial sector, the more we citizens are distraught because our regular consolation is denied us: what’s happened to that One Rotten Apple in the barrel? The best that the system’s defenders have managed is to picture the financial sector as one big rotten apple at the core of an otherwise healthy system of free enterprise.

Adam and Eve tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and were made to earn their keep by the sweat of their brows. We already carry that penalty. Denied the opioid of the One Rotten Apple, Mr Commissioner, we will be able to tell the Devil Incarnate from his One Rotten Apple. Please, Mr Commissioner, spare us such anguish.

Paris threw Golden Apples before Atalanta in the expectation that she could not resist stooping to pick up the glittering prize and thus allow him to win the race and the greater prize of Helen. The result was the destruction of Troy. Please, Mr Commissioner, spare us that fate. We shall happily trade all the Golden Apples in Christendom for the comfort of One Rotten One.

Please Mr Commissioner, make the Business Council, the Institute of Directors and their kind restore our faith in the essential soundness of capitalism by giving us back their One Rotten Apple.

Whenever I hear the term ‘bank Kultur’ I reach for my Mauser.

Whichever PR firm came up with ‘Kultur’ for corporate crime more than earned its million-dollar fee. There’s something ‘civilised’ about having the wrong Kultur. Not like a CFMEU organiser who has to bellow ‘fuck’ in order to get a site made half-way safe.

‘Culture’ also sounds like something we absorb, like the air—polluted though it might be.

We are being sold the line that ‘bank Kultur’ is acquired in the same way we do our native tongue, innocently. In truth, corporate Kultur is learned behaviour. It is inculcated into staff by bonuses and through example. The gouging of super fees by the retail Super funds run by the banks and the AMP is a meticulously structured operational method honed across decades. To ascribe such habitual thieving to an inchoate ‘Kultur’ is to revive belief in phlogiston and the aether.

There is nothing unique to banks about a ’Kultur’ of malfeasance. It is but one more expression of the needs of capital to expand in order to persist.

If ‘Kultur’ is to blame, a whack of responsibility must be sheeted home to Universities. The Schools of Business that have displaced Faculties of Commerce and Economics retain one shred of virtue: their label is not deceptive. Indeed, they have cooked up a subject branded ‘Business Economics’.

Humphrey McQueen

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One thought on “Banking Commissioner meets cannibal

  1. Chris White says:

    What we won’t find in the Hayne report or the Labor response:

    “#2 There is no possibility of any well-ordered progress being made in the community, under a system in which there are privately–owned trading banks which have been established for the purposes of making profit.

    #6 In my opinion the best service to the community can be given only by a banking system from which the profit motive is absent, and thus, in practice, only by a system entirely under national control.” – Ben Chifley, Labor in dissenting in the 1935 Royal Commission into Banks.

    Yes, different times, but a reform policy now for non-profit financial services is required and would be good.

    Good analysis from Humphrey McQueen

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