Letters to the editor

No royal commission

For years, many Australians have regarded their banks with suspicion. That suspicion is now deep distrust, even hostility, provoked by a string of finance sector scandals in recent years. Lives have been traumatised by some financial institutions behaving like corporate pirates.  

Life insurance scandals, financial planning scandals and bank bill swap rate allegations. Massive credit card interest rates, refusal to pass on full interest rate cuts and obscene CEP remuneration deals. Gigantic profits that make our big banks the more profitable in the OECD. All these have produced powerful popular demands for a royal commission into the sector.

Faced with such demands – even 62 per cent of Coalition voters back a royal commission, according to a recent survey – Malcolm Turnbull “acted”: he invited the CEOs of the big four banks to Canberra for a – well, for a bit of a chat! To give the chat a whiff of credibility, you could call it a parliamentary committee inquiry. And its main task was to back the Turnbull policy that there was no need for a banking royal commission. Nothing to see there!

And so years of scandal and shonky practices in the finance sector were to be sorted out in 12 hours of questioning before a parliamentary committee, where the CEOs of the big four banks appeared with little more than carefully rehearsed expressions of regret for past practices that have caused untold distress for thousands and thousands of their customers. 

The CEOs stressed their new-found commitment to transparency and their recently-discovered openness to scrutiny – except, of course, scrutiny by a royal commission. After all, royal commissions can ask some very awkward questions and might even require financial institutions to produce files and documents and other sorts of evidence that could be quite inconvenient, even extremely embarrassing. 

Strangely, from an ex-merchant banker, without waiting for the committee’s report, Mr Turnbull was able to predict its finding: there will be no royal commission. But we will get some sort of disputes tribunal that will handle consumer complaints. I don’t know about the consumers, but you can bet the banks won’t complain about that. 

Mick Lawler, Tamworth ALP president

Students undertaking HSC

In the next few weeks you will sit your exams for the Higher School Certificate. It’s going to be a challenging time, but nonetheless an exciting time to be completing school. The future requires all of us to be adaptable and prepared. When deciding what you might do after school, consider your interests, your likes and dislikes, your experiences at school, at home and within your community.

Think about your hopes and visions for the future and where you want to study, train or work. The Turnbull-Joyce government has in train a range of pathways and a wide range of options for career development, further education and training options. So I would like to take this opportunity to wish good luck to all students about to take their HSC exams. Remember to stay calm, study hard and just do your best.

Barnaby Joyce, Federal Member for New England

Same-sex marriage 

Churches and small businesses unwilling to provide services catering for “same-sex” marriage ceremonies may well - if such marriages are legalised - face persecution.

Federal Attorney General George Brandis is proposing amendments which allegedly offer some protection. But apart from church ministers and marriage celebrants, other likely targets (cake-makers, function room owners etc.) look like remaining unprotected. 

Such people may well put up with it, sticking to their principles anyway. They know what marriage is. But many don’t make a stand. Perhaps we all should put in more effort to defend justice.

Arnold Jago, Nichols Point

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