Tuesday 28 February 2017

DHS & Centrelink now threatening clients who expose unfair or inappropriate implementation of social security policy?

Screenshot via @BernardKeane

Political reporter with @abcnews:

This Department of Human Services has just issued a pretty clear warning to Centrelink clients who want to public criticise #notmydebt.
ABC News, 27 February 2017:

Those who publicly criticise Centrelink's automated debt recovery program could have their personal information released to correct the record, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has warned.

Blogger Andie Fox wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media earlier this month claiming Centrelink "terrorised" her while chasing her for a debt she believed she did not owe.

On the weekend, Fairfax published an article from the Government's perspective, raising the prospect of Centrelink being "unfairly castigated".

In the article a spokesman for Centrelink commented on Ms Fox's personal information including her history of claiming the Family Tax Benefit and relationship circumstances.

A DHS spokesman said personal information could be released by the Government to correct public statements of complaints.

"Such disclosures are made for the purposes of the social security law or the family assistance law, they do not need to be formally authorised by the secretary," the spokesman said.

"Unfounded allegations unnecessarily undermine confidence and takes staff effort away from dealing with other claims.

"We will continue to correct the record on such occasions."

Labor's Linda Burney accused DHS of "deeply unethical actions" and the Government of seeking "revenge".

"The disclosure has occurred deliberately to smear a private individual who has spoken out about the error prone robo-debt program and the deeply flawed Centrelink debt recovery process," she said.

"Correcting the record is one thing, attempting to smear and discredit opponents is entirely different and far more troubling."

Ms. Fox's response can be found at https://bluemilk.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/is-this-what-happens-when-you-criticise-government/.

However, neither Centrelink nor the Turnbull Government can stop criticism being aired during - the rather wordily titled - Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs’ Inquiry into Design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative and mainstream media reporting.

The Canberra Times, 28 February 2017:

People pursued by Centrelink over its controversial "robo-debts" are being denied the protection of Australian consumer law, a Parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The welfare agency is exempt from laws and guidelines covering debt collection by private businesses, "even the much maligned banks", according to the chief executive of Victorian community organisation Family Care, David Tennant.

But Centrelink says that is, and the private sector debt collectors hired to pursue its clients, are compliant with legal requirements.

Mr Tennant, who has a background in consumer law, says much of Centrelink's activities in pursuing its millions of dollars in "robo-debt" would be illegal if done by a non-government player.

The legal immunity enjoyed by Centrelink allows it to "pressure people for payment in ways that are objectively unfair," Mr Tennant says in his submission to the Parliamentary inquiry into the robo-debt crisis……

In his submission to the inquiry, Mr Tennant, a former chairman of the national peak body for financial counsellors, say he is surprised by the "lack of commentary about how Centrelink's conduct stacks up against the normal rules applying to the collection of debts in Australia".

"There are significant problems associated with a government department pursing a course of action that would likely be illegal if adopted by a body other than government," Mr Tennant wrote.

"It potentially erodes the confidence of those who rely on the benefit system to treat them fairly, or to recognise them as having the same rights as all citizens.

Although I suspect that one of the reasons behind Centrelink supplying personal and perhaps sensitive client information to the media may be in order to produce a chilling effect on submissions made to this particular Senate inquiry.

This inquiry is accepting written submissions until 22 March 2016.
The inquiry reporting date is 10 May 2017.

Australia is an upside down society with skewed values

Australia is an upside down society with skewed values if something like this can occur……

ABC News, 20 February 2017:

The coal industry's multi-million-dollar advertising and lobbying campaign in the run-up to the last federal election was bankrolled by money deducted from state mining royalty payments and meant to fund research into "clean coal".
The mining industry spent $2.5 million pushing the case for lower-emissions, coal-fired power plants in the run-up to last year's election — a cause the Federal Government has since taken up with gusto.
The source of the funds was a voluntary levy on coal companies, originally intended to fund research into "clean coal" technologies, which coal producers could deduct from state mining royalties.
Instead, some of the money raised paid for phone polling, literature and TV ads that declared "coal — it's an amazing thing".
The funds were channelled through the Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technology Limited (ACALET), formerly owned by the Australian Coal Association and now part of the Minerals Council for Australia.
Queensland Government documents list "the COAL21 levy payable to Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technologies Ltd (ACALET)" as an eligible deduction against royalty payments in the state…..
Coal21 was launched more than a decade ago, with the aim of creating a $1 billion fund for research into "clean coal" technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), but only a fraction of the money was raised or spent.
With a lack of research projects to finance, the levy was suspended in 2012. In 2013, the coal lobby changed the mandate of Coal21 to downplay research and allow its funds to be used for "coal promotion"…….
In the wake of the coal industry campaign, the Federal Government has embraced the push for lower-emissions, coal-fired power stations and is intending to use considerable public money to fund the technology.
It wants the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), established to fund zero or very low carbon emissions technology, to be able to fund coal projects.
That will require changing the CEFC's current mandate which prohibits funding technology that reduces emissions by less than 50 per cent and excludes funding of coal carbon capture and storage.
The office of the Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has been contacted for comment.

U.S. President Donald Trump's lies are so easy to expose


Monday 27 February 2017

Australia-U.S. relations in 2017: "If the dead could shout, they would be shouting at us now."

A timely history lesson………………..

The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 2017:

We have no excuse for overlooking the meaning of this anniversary. And its timing compels us to consider its lessons.
In last week marking the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, Malcolm Turnbull called it "shattering". Bill Shorten called it "unthinkable". It was the bitterest strategic betrayal in Australia's history since white conquest.
The fall of Singapore was, according to Winston Churchill, "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". Britain has never recovered from the blow to its prestige. For Australia it was about much more than prestige. It was about national survival. The fall of the supposedly impregnable British fortress in Singapore opened Australia to Japanese invasion. With Singapore taken, Japan's bombers opened their first attacks on Darwin just four days later.
Yet even as Parliament paused last week to reflect sombrely on that shocking event, officialdom showed troubling signs of utterly missing the point. Neither Turnbull nor Shorten drew any big conclusions about the fall of Singapore in their speeches. They paid tribute, rightly, to the troops and the civilians who were the immediate victims of Britain's incompetence when they were killed or captured by the Japanese…..
Betrayed by one great and powerful friend, Australia threw itself into the arms of another. Curtin's expression of independence was to take Australia from one dependency to another. Of course, it was the right thing to do in the face of imminent invasion.
But the lesson of the fall of Singapore must surely be that Australia can not trust its survival wholly to a foreign power. Even a close ally. Yesterday Britain, today America……
Yet, as historically tectonic as China's return may be, it is not the biggest source of uncertainty for regional security. Nor is it Russia's aggression. As a Russia expert from America's Georgetown University, Angela Stent, remarked at the Munich Security Conference on the weekend: "You come here and you realise that the biggest source of instability in the world right now is not Russia. It's the US."
There is no prize for guessing what, or whom, she could possibly be talking about. Some American patriots are trying hard to reassure US allies that the America remains reliable despite its President……
Did Payne or her US counterpart mention the biggest source of instability in the world, the man who overshadows every conversation, Donald Trump, I asked?
"Given the strength of the defence relationship," Payne told me, "there was no need to venture further afield in that regard."
In other words, the Australian and American defence ministers and their governments are trying to conduct relations pretending Donald Trump doesn't exist. "Oh, who is the mad king shouting from the top of the castle?" we ask. "What mad king?" the officials reply, straight-faced, trying to be heard over the ruckus.
Which sane country would wager its national security on the sanity of the mad king? Would you catch him in a moment of lucidity, or would he be preoccupied with a non-existent terrorist attack on Sweden, perhaps?
When the commander of the British fortress on Singapore, General Arthur Percival, was asked why he refused to erect essential defences against the Japanese, he told his subordinates that it would be "bad for the morale of troops and civilians".
Allan Gyngell, former head of the top intelligence body, the Office of National Assessments, writes in the Financial Review: "The natural tendency of Australian foreign policy advisers faced with change is to suggest going along for the ride [with America] and seeing where things end up ... It is sometimes excellent advice. But not this time."
We have no excuse for overlooking the meaning of the fall of Singapore. If the dead could shout, they would be shouting at us now.

Redfern Statement revisited in 2017

Media Release, 14 February 2017:

Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peaks will today demand a new relationship with government as they deliver the historic Redfern Statement direct to the Prime Minister at Parliament House.

In the lead up to today’s 9th Closing the Gap Report to Parliament, the leaders will call on the Prime Minister to support the historic Redfern Statement, a road map to better address the appalling disadvantage gap between Australia’s First Peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by working with them as genuine partners.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples’s co-chair Mr Rod Little comments:

“After 25 years, eight Federal election cycles, seven Prime Ministers, eight Ministers for Indigenous Affairs, 400 recommendations, and countless policies, policy changes, reports, funding promises and funding cuts it’s time to draw a line in the sand.

“We need a new relationship that respects and harnesses our expertise, and guarantees us a seat at the table as equal partners when governments are making decisions about our lives.”
– Rod Little, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair

The Redfern Statement was released during last year’s Federal Election campaign on 9 June by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from health, justice, children and families, disability, and family violence prevention services.

The statement calls for changes across these sectors through structured engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and is supported by more than 30 major mainstream organisations including the Australian Medical Association and Law Council.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples’s co-chair Dr Jackie Huggins said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations have worked with our people on the ground for decades and have shown they have solutions.

“Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations deliver 2.5 million episodes of care a year in their local communities – and are the only health and leadership models making inroads on Close the Gap targets.

“Our teachers, education professionals and family violence experts are delivering real results on the ground in their communities every single day – despite chronic underfunding and an ad hoc policy approach based on three-year election cycles.

“Today we are seeking a new relationship, a genuine partnership and a commitment to ongoing structured engagement.”
– Dr Jackie Huggins, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair

Read the full Redfern Statement.

Sunday 26 February 2017

Whatever happened to Metgasco Limited?

After Metgasco Limited left the NSW Northern Rivers region with its pockets stuffed full of compensation dollars because local communities resisted its efforts to create a coal seam gas industry in the middle of biodiverse, culturally rich and productive rural landscapes, it temporarily sank from sight.

According to Metgasco:

Metgasco appears to be partly or wholly exploring on land over which the Wongkamara peoples hold Native Title.

The company has another project underway in the Gulf of Mexico where it has acquired farm-in rights from Byron Energy Ltd in exchange for an est. A$1.3m investment – thereby deploying  approx. 27% of Metgasco’s current financial resources.

Peter Henderson, the CEO that Metgasco let go in May 2016 with a $300,000 handshake, was last heard of looking for work with Perth-based Tap Oil Limited.

"We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump's speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president"

Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, 13 February 2017:

To the Editor:
Charles M. Blow (column, nytimes.com, Feb. 9) describes Donald Trump’s constant need “to grind the opposition underfoot.” As mental health professionals, we share Mr. Blow’s concern.
Silence from the country’s mental health organizations has been due to a self-imposed dictum about evaluating public figures (the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 Goldwater Rule). But this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.
Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).
In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Dr. Dodes is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Schachter is a former chairman of the Committee on Research Proposals, International Psychoanalytic Association. The letter was also signed by 33 other psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

Full signature list:

Joseph Abrahams, M.D.

Saturday 25 February 2017

"Blinky Bill" visits a couple of Iluka residents in February 2017

Delightful video and photograph of a koala in Spenser Street, Iluka NSW, by Lisa Shaw from the Green Room café at Iluka.

Ken Nicholl from Iluka Landcare transferred this little koala to a koala food tree next door.

An Iluka resident tells me that this koala was approximately 1km from the proposed subdivision of Lot 99 Hickey Street, Iluka, a parcel of land which also reportedly contains koala food trees.

Coal and Climate Change protests in the Northern Rivers

Echo NetDaily, 20 February 2017:

‘Building the biggest coal mine on earth is, at this point in human history, the dumbest idea on earth,’ said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.
Adani Carmichael Coal mine is still looking for major investors to get off the ground and Westpac Bank is a possible investor.  Lismore Environment Centre is rallying the community together this morning at 10am outside the Westpac Bank, Molesworth Street, Lismore to highlight opposition to funding of the mine.
‘Twelve investment banks including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and HSBC have ruled out investing in Adani. The other three major banks in Australia have been backing away from it, but not Westpac. Westpac’s approval could throw open the doors for investors sitting on the sidelines. We want to show Westpac this is not a good decision for them to make,’ said George Pick from the Lismore Environment Centre.
‘This project is one of the single biggest threats in the entire world to our climate. The Queensland and federal governments are pulling out all the stops to facilitate the Adani Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin even though it’s economically unviable. Westpac needs to realise that investing in this mine will hurt their brand. Our community cares about climate change and investing in Adani will be a big mistake.’ he said.
Taking 12 billion litres of water a year the project will dewater two local springs that are Great Artesian Basin recharge springs, and will mine through the Carmichael river.
‘In Queensland, new water laws passed last year which mean that whilst Adani has to apply for a water licence local communities have no right to object to any licences that are granted,’ said Lismore City councillor Elly Bird, who will be speaking at the event.

The Daily Examiner, 21 February 2017, p.8:

Following backlash from his somewhat wooden 'ask the PM' video, a tough week was topped off for MP Luke Hartsuyker when a number of residents rallied outside his office for action on climate change.
With residents bringing a dummy with a print-out face, a makeshift Hartsuyker sat idly on a blow-up beach chair among the protesters.
Dressed for the beach and equipped with water pistols and floatation devices, the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group called for government action on climate change.
"We're here today to join the dots for My Hartsuyker - to beat the heat, we must leave coal in the ground and urgently transition to 100% renewable energy," said Liisa Rusanen, a member of the group.
"This summer we've had record-breaking heatwaves in many parts of the country. Unprecedented hot spells are taking their toll on the elderly and children, droughts in some areas are impacting food production, while others are battling bushfire.
"This is what climate scientists have been warning us about for decades, yet our politicians are playing with coal and putting our future at risk."
The group delivered a petition to the office of over 300 signatures, calling on the federal government to "declare a climate emergency and initiate a society-wide mobilisation to stop climate change".
Mr Hartsuyker, however, was not present at his office during the protest.

Quotes of the Week

“Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” [Senior White House adviser on immigration issues, Stephen Miller, quoted in The Guardian, 13 February 2017]

FORD: That’s a White House advisor, right?
BRZEZINSKI: Oh my God. That’s not even funny. You can’t even —
SCARBOROUGH: Oh my God. It’s so much worse than I ever thought.
BRZEZINSKI: It’s much worse. It’s much worse.
[Excerpt from transcript of MSNBC Morning Joe broadcast as quoted in Shareblue, 13 February 2017]

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued. [Journalist and political commentator David Brooks writing in The New York Times, 17 February 2017]

Friday 24 February 2017

Will cuts to Sunday penalty rates become a textbook example of unintended consequences?

ABC News, 23 February 2017:

Let's start by calling a spade a spade. Sunday penalty rates have been cut by the Fair Work Commission. Not "equalised" or "brought in line" with Saturday rates. Cut.

Business, big and small, has been seeking this cut for years, saying Sunday penalties are a legacy of a bygone era where families went to church — one that's costing them a tidy sum.

They also argue it's a legacy that's been costing jobs, with many employers choosing not to open on Sundays, or to maintain just a skeleton staff (although ask yourself, just how many retailers, restaurants, cafes and bars are actually shut on Sunday?).

But the cuts to Sunday penalty rates could become a textbook example of unintended consequences, where a move supposed to increase employment instead hurts the economy and increases business failures and job losses.

Why? Because the hundreds of thousands of retail and hospitality workers affected by this decision are also customers.

What do you think happens when you cut someone's pay packet by as much as 25 per cent for their Sunday shifts?

(For a typical permanent retail worker on the award who always works Sunday shifts this will cut their annual pay by about $3,500).

They either have to work more, or they have to cut their spending to match their new, lower wage.

Given that unemployment is stubbornly high at 5.7 per cent, and underemployment is near record levels, it seems unlikely they'll actually be able to get more work to make up the lost pay — and, remember, these staff already work Sundays, so it's not like they'll benefit from any increase in jobs on that day.

According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) an est. 850,300 people were employed in the accommodation and food industry sector in November 2016 as their main job and another est. 1.25 million people have their main job in the retail sector [ABS 6291.0.55.003 - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Nov 2016].

An est. 54.7 percent of female employees in the accommodation/food industry work part-time and an est. 45.3 per cent males do likewise. While in retail an est. 54.6 per cent of females and 45.3 per cent of males work part-time.

In accommodation/food businesses part time employees work for an average of 16.1 hours while in the retail trade part-time employees work for an average of 16.7 hours.

Underemployment appears to be highest in the food and hospitality sector, third highest in the retail sector and females highest in both sectors. [Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Gender composition of the workforce: by industry, April 2016]

Females with only one job were more likely to work on weekends - 73% compared to 68% for males.

These statistics tend to confirm that “hundreds of thousands” of single person and family households will be hit by cuts to Sunday penalty rates as set out in the Fair Work Commission’s 4 yearly review of modern awards – Penalty Rates Decision covering Hospitality, Fast Food, Retail and Pharmacy Awards and, I have no doubt that their loss of income will affect local economies to a significant degree.

Award Sunday Penalty Rate

Hospitality Award full-time and part-time employees: (no change for casuals) 175 per cent -> 150 per cent

Fast Food Award (Level 1 employees only)
Full-time and part-time employees: 150 per cent ->125 per cent
Casual employees: 175 per cent ->150 per cent

Retail Award Full-time and part-time employees: 200 per cent ->150 per cent
Casual employees: 200 per cent ->175 per cent

Pharmacy Award
(7.00 am – 9.00 pm only)
Full-time and part-time employees: 200 per cent ->150 per cent
Casual employees: 200 per cent ->175 per cent

Local and regional economies on the NSW North Coast - where often low levels of employment opportunity combined with the fact that few hospitality/food outlets in tourism-orientated towns and none of the big retail stores currently close on a Sunday anyway - suggest that this wages cut will be nothing more than a straight forward cost saving for local businesses, with no or very little additional full-time, part-time or casual employment eventuating.

That a backlash to the Fair Work Commission decision appears inevitable is indicated by this online poll active on the day the decision was published:

Narrabri Shire Council caught red handed

Clarence Valley readers might remember Narrabri Shire Council as one of those NSW local governments pushing to dam and divert the Clarence River and interested in creating a Yamba mega port.

Now they have apparently been caught red handed attempting to stack an online survey in favour of coal seam gas mining in the Pilliga area:

via @PilligaPush


Narrabri Shire Council will be forced to hire an independent reviewer, after both its general manager and mayor received code of conduct complaints for the same incident.
The complaints arose following an email sent out to all council staff, asking them to vote in a poll about coal seam gas in Narrabri.
Questions have been raised about who directed the email to be sent to staff, which council has so far ignored.
The Leader understands two councillors made a complaint against general manager Stewart Todd, after seeking advice from the NSW Office of Local Government, who informed them they were obligated to make a complaint if they believed the code of conduct had been breached.
Narrabri Ratepayers Association also made a code of conduct complaint against mayor Catherine Redding.
Normally when a code of conduct complaint is made against the general manager, the mayor would handle the complaint, and vice versa.
However, given both complaints relate to the same issue, the matter will be referred to an external independent conduct reviewer. 
Narrabri Shire Council refused to answer The Leader’s questions because of the confidential nature of the matter.
Office of Local Government documents indicate information that identifies the complainants is not to be disclosed, however, that “does not apply to code of conduct complaints made by councillors about other councillors or the general manager”.
The email in question was sent out to all council staff on February 9, implying employees should stack an online survey which asked “Do you want CSG in Narrabri?”

Company tax rate cuts in Australia and the banks that benefit

There has been some finger pointing in mainstream and social media of late over Labor’s use of $7.4 million as the amount banks would be able to retain under the Turnbull Government’s progressive cuts to the company tax rate included in the 2016-17 Budget.

According to the Australian Tax Office on 3 January 2016:

The government announced a reduction in the small business tax rate from 28.5 per cent to 27.5 per cent for the 2016–17 income year. The turnover threshold to qualify for the lower rate will start at $10 million and progressively rise until the 27.5 per cent rate applies to all corporate tax entities subject to the general company tax rate in the 2023–24 income year.

The corporate tax rate will then be cut to 27 per cent for the 2024–25 income year and by one percentage point in each subsequent year until it reaches 25 per cent for the 2026–27 income year.

ABC News reported in May 2016 that Treasury Secretary John Fraser told Senate Estimates: The cost of these measures to 2026-27 is $48.2 billion in cash terms.

So where did the $7.4 billion for banks come from?

Australia is thought to have four big banks – the National Australia Bank (NAB), Commonwealth Bank (CBA), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) and Westpac (WBA) and it appears that this amount is based on projections done with regards to these banks by think tank, The Australia Institute.

The Australia Institute, media release 2016:

Big 4 banks $7.4 billion budget gift

The Coalition Government’s business tax plan would deliver $7.4B to the big 4 banks.

“Cutting company tax rates delivers a massive windfall to an already highly profitable banking sector,” Executive Director Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said.

“It makes no economic or budget sense to deliver the big 4 banks a multi-billion dollar tax break when Australia already has a revenue problem.

“If your agenda is jobs and growth, targeted industry assistance would deliver a much greater return on investment,” Oquist said.

The value of company tax provisions was derived from 2015 full year annual reports for the big four banks. That figure summed to $11,123 million. That figure was projected forward to 2026-27 to give the no change scenario.

The projection assumed bank profit and hence tax payable would increase in line with nominal GDP. The nominal GDP projections used the figures in the 2016-17 budget papers which give nominal increases of:

2.5 per cent in 2015-16,
4.25 per cent in 2016-17, and
5 per cent in 2017-18 and subsequent years.

Company tax cuts do not affect the big banks until 2024-25 when the current 30 per cent rate will fall to 27 per cent for all companies with further reductions of one per cent per annum until they reach 25 per cent in 2026-27.

The results of this are presented in the following table:

Table 1. Benefit of company tax cuts for big four banks, $million
Savings on company tax

KPMG stated in Major Banks: Full Year Results 2015 that the Australian major banks reported another record earnings result in 2015 - a combined cash profit after tax of $30 billion.

By year’s end 2016 the major banks were reporting a combined cash profit after tax of $29.6 billion.

The Federal Government’s underlying cash balance for the 2016-17 financial year to 31 December 2016 was a deficit of $33,025 million and the fiscal balance was a deficit of $31,143 million. While net government debt for 2016-17 stood at an est. $326 billion.

There is an increasing global perception that banks put shareholders’ and executives’ interests ahead of their customers and the community. This perception is more real for banks than for other corporates as they are seen to rely not only on compliance with strict regulation, but increasingly on the goodwill of the community and government to continue to operate in their current form.

We are seeing heightened scrutiny of Australian banks, including through the recent Standing Committee on Economics (the Committee) inquiry, becoming a regular feature of media and political commentary, notwithstanding eight separate inquiries since 2009. There are many reasons for this increased level of oversight, with terms such as “trust deficit” and “trust gap” often cited as the root cause.

It has been argued that the financial services industry has lost touch with the core proposition customers are seeking by forgetting its real purpose in society and becoming too inwardly focussed. These themes were repeated in testimony to the Committee.

Readers can make their own minds up as to whether banks have lived up to the historic social licence granted them by community (see bank scandals since 2009 and alleged superannuation owing in 2017) and, if they actually need any further tax relief or if that $7.4 billion would be much better in the hands of the Commonwealth Treasury.