Political Watch with Graham Richardson


Todays chat includes Julie Bishops sour grapes that are still festering, the question of the au pair saga for Peter Dutton is still lingering, plus lots more including a bit of footy.

Listen to the podcast here.

Morrison must act on the reef, banks and power prices



During the past few months there have been three issues about which I am confronted by the -average punter.
Just why it took so long for the government to announce that the corporate tax cuts would not be revisited I will never understand. These cuts were inevitably boiled down by the mob to the banks being rewarded — for the systematic larceny of their customers — to the tune of $17 billion.
It’s little wonder that everyone in the Turnbull government, including Scott Morrison, then treasurer and now our new Prime Minister, voted against a royal commission into the banking sector time and again. The one notable exception to this was NSW Nationals senator John “Wacka” Williams, who was even prepared to cross the floor on an issue he considered important.

As the Hayne royal commission revealed rort after disgusting rort by the banks, the government — and Senate leader Mathias Cormann in particular — clung on to a limpet mine, determined to blow up and take the maximum number of casualties.
One by one the representatives of the big banks and the seemingly doomed AMP produced their middle finger to Australia as they outlined the myriad methods they used to steal money from customers. Not even the dead and the departed were spared as collective and probably criminal acts spread like a plague through our financial institutions.
This stain will be hard to shed for Morrison. Bill Shorten, who prosecuted the case for an inquiry into the banks tirelessly for more than a year, is not going to go easy on this. Six months from now you can bet your second mortgage that Labor’s ad campaigns will remind us all of the Coalition’s manifest failures.
Malcolm Turnbull demonstrated two of his worst features when he told his environment and energy minister (and now the Treasurer) Josh Frydenberg to ensure his department should shovel $443 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which had only six full-time employees when the money leapt into its accounts.
Turnbull’s arrogance and zero political intelligence were on vivid display. Morrison has been leader a few weeks now and for the life of me I just cannot understand why he hasn’t very publicly dumped this ridiculous proposal.
When the chief executive of the foundation can tell us “it was just like winning Lotto” and then earnestly inform us that no one from the foundation was contacted during an obviously flawed effort at due diligence, the smell reached way beyond the reef.
Sadly, this kind of money-for-mates confirms in voters’ minds the impression that our system works on the basis of who you know, not what you know.
The biggest issue by a country mile, though, is the price of electricity, which has everyone up in arms. Pensioners have to rug up more in the winter and have cold showers in the summer because they can’t afford to switch on the airconditioning.
Plenty of rich people have to worry too as power prices are slugged on small and large businesses and eat into profits. The government has been prevented from arriving at any policy to fix the problem because it is racked by division within its ranks over the place renewables should have in our energy mix.
To settle the dissidents in the Coalition, Morrison should facilitate by direct loan or guarantee the building of two hi-tech coal-fired electricity plants on the east coast.
There is at least a six-year lag between the decision and the time power can be generated. In the meantime, the government must find a way to get prices down as quickly as possible. No one believes in promises that take effect so many years down the track. Here there is a need for speed.
What has become apparent to us all is that much cheaper deals exist than what most people are paying. Surely there is a way to force the power companies to abolish the expensive deals and offer only the cheap ones.
Most pensioners would find the route to that cheaper deal way too difficult to navigate. Being handed from one person to another or waiting while muzak tinkles irritatingly in your ear for what seems like hours is a frustrating undertaking. Electricity companies make the journey to cheaper power as difficult and challenging as they can.
In recent days the Prime Minister has floated the idea of a royal commission into energy prices and the companies that charge them. As in the case of the Hayne inquiry, there can be no doubt that bad behaviour will turn out to be the order of the day.
I have no objection to such a commission provided we do not have to sit around for 18 months waiting for the commission’s recommendations to be published before action is taken to lower prices. Politically, it would be suicidal for the government to delay serious ¬efforts to reduce prices.
If the banking services inquiry produced evidence of criminal greed, it also demonstrated just how timid and insipid our regulators really are. There has been no robust supervision of our financial players. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission in particular stands condemned.
Even before the commission, we knew of instances such as no action being taken against Storm Financial despite warnings given to ASIC in writing over several years. ASIC’s inaction cost thousands of people their homes and it is hard to forget the involvement of the Commonwealth Bank in this. Then along comes this commission, showing us how often ASIC resorted to slap-on-the-wrist punishment of signing a so-called “enforceable” undertaking.
The financial fraternity knew that ASIC was gutless and incredibly reluctant to move against it. They simply ignored the undertakings, knowing no action would be taken to enforce what they had “solemnly agreed to”.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority was utterly useless as well, so our savings and investments were plundered by those greedy bastards at the big four, and without any penalty.
Out of all the commission activity we must now redesign our watchdogs and change their culture. Their workforce needs to reflect on their previous role of not rocking the banking boat and realise they are supposed to represent the robbed, not the robbers.
It is easy to reach the conclusion that once all the immediate fuss evaporates, so too will the zeal for a real change of culture.
I want nothing more than to be found to be wrong on this point.

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