Has Australia become a nation of crooks?

I’ve been an Australian for a long while now. I always thought that Aussies were a decent bunch, wedded to the notion of a fair go for everyone, always willing to give their mates a hand up when they were down. I’ve seen example after example of this mateship among ordinary folk.

We’ve all seen how generously Aussies offer help in times of crisis, when someone has been dealt an unfair blow by circumstance, when someone needs funds for specialized medical care, and when a family or a town or an area has been devastated by drought or fire or floods. Helping hands are everywhere, generosity abounds, and goodwill is abundant. We are seeing this right now as the widespread drought worsens.

Think though about whom the generous ones are. They are ordinary Aussies like you and me, ready to help our mates when they are in strife.

Then ask yourself why these basic Australian traits are missing from the giants that dominate our economy and our society. Some of them are banks, some are corporations, some are religious orders, and some are clubs and sporting organizations. All have engendered our trust over the years. Yet so many have now destroyed that trust though dishonesty, even criminal fraud.

To our astonishment and our dismay we have discovered that they have deliberately set out to mislead their patrons, to defraud them, to gouge them financially, to take money from their pockets and erode their entitlements, to deprive them of the benefits they were promised. Their actions are no accident, no administrative mistake, no inadvertent error carried out by a junior employee. They are premeditated and carefully calculated to benefit the big guy and disadvantage the little.

In the case of religious orders they have besmirched their principles and defiled their morality as they abused the young and the old alike, the very ones they have always pledged to protect. And then they knowingly covered it up for decades, putting the reputation of their churches ahead of the welfare of the powerless and the vulnerable.

I know I don’t need to write page after page describing in detail these corporate crooks. You know them, but here are a few reminders.

Can you recall how shocked you were when the revelations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and the Financial Services Industry unfolded day after agonizing day. How many of you, like me, had an abiding faith in the pillars of the financial world, our four large banks, only to find that they have been actively defrauding us all in pursuit of their own profits and filling the pockets of their employees through incentives that always favoured the employee against the client. Everyone in the banks knew about this fraud from the boards and top executives down. They willfully and shamefully set about gouging their clients. It was hard to believe, but believe it we now must.

Now that the banks had been done over by the Royal Commissioner and his assistants through incisive questions and humiliating answers from the bankers, superannuation and other elements of the financial industry are to be put under the hammer. They will be found to be just as bad.

It’s hard to believe that such malfeasance could have infected every corner of the banking industry. And it was all deliberate, intentional fraud that everyone in the industry knew about and worse still, except for the occasional whistleblower, stealthily concealed.

And just last week, AMP, longstanding pillar in the edifice of our financial institutions, having been forced to make a humiliating mea culpa about its fraud, is now publicly attempting to reset its business after its chief executive Craig Meller quit, Board Chairman Catherine Brenner and other Board members resigned, and AMP executives were threatened with years in jail for fraud.

While all this was filling the headlines, the revelations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse competed for prominence.

Who knew how widespread the abuse was, how many had been involved, and how assiduously it had been covered up by the top echelons of these institutions? Who has not been shocked? Although we usually use the word ‘fraud’ for financial misdemeanors, it applies equally to the behaviour of religious and related institutions caught up in child abuse. The decency and righteousness they have been promising for eons has not been delivered; the opposite has. They are religious crooks.

More recently we have had the ACCC report on the steep rise in energy prices, which it attributes in part to market manipulation by the big players and monopolies. The ACCC wants a cap on any further merger or acquisition of a company with more than 20 per cent market share of generation to stop monopolies arising, and also wants the Australian Energy Regulator to have greater monitoring powers “to target market manipulation”. The energy market is deliberately confusing. ACCC says it’s ‘broken’! We have crooks and frauds in the energy market too.

Let’s look for a while at the sporting arena. Test cricket, long regarded as the pinnacle of decent sporting behaviour, has now been permanently diminished by the ‘ball tampering’ affair in South Africa. Captain Smith, Vice Captain Warner and perpetrator Bancroft have been lastingly shamed, as has Australian cricket and all those cricket officials and administrators right to the top, who knew about the unhealthy ‘win at all costs’ culture that encouraged this unseemly fraud. It is galling to see that our sporting heroes too are frauds and crooks.

We are well aware of the drug scandals that have afflicted the Tour de France, and recently there have been rumours that match fixing may have occurred at Wimbledon, the home of tennis, where some doubles matches were under suspicion. No Australians are implicated.

Recently, we discovered that Facebook and Optus has been deviously capturing intimate details of their clients’ behaviour and surreptitiously selling this to third parties so that they can secretly manipulate our choice of all manner of products. This is fraud, and the perpetrators are crooks.

The restaurant industry has surprised us with countless episodes of underpayment of staff wages, superannuation and entitlements. Details were provided in The merchants of venality. You can read more about this sorry tale in an article in The New Daily: The Melbourne food strip where hundreds of staff are underpaid. George Colombaris of MasterChef fame was involved in this fraud. He underpaid staff in his restaurants by $2.6 million. And when caught out, solemn promises to repay his workers their entitlements were still being dishonoured in mid July.

As a longstanding Aussie, I’m appalled and ashamed that our society has accumulated so many crooks plying their fraudulent trade. Perhaps they were always there, but I didn’t notice them. But they are there now in such profusion that no one can miss them. We are shocked, embarrassed and infuriated. Can our ‘fair go’ nation ever recover?

What do you say?

Please tell us in a line or two in ‘Comments’.

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mick loughlin

6/08/2018182,000 convicts is not the best way to establish a country, making a silk purse from a pigs ear comes to mind.

Michelle Hartley

6/08/2018

The only way we can recover is if we get a government who will investigate their own.  It starts at the heart of the nation.  Federal ICAC bring it on Bill Shorten!

Jon Chesterson

6/08/2018

The biggest of these crooks are the large institutions, government and corporate sector.  While ever we have corrupt government and none have so blatant and more corrupt and incompetent than the Liberals and Nationals.  They should never be allowed to govern again.  Frankly, banks should punished and ed to distribute all their profits for the next five years back to all their customers.  We need ICAC and we need radical political and corporate reform.  otherwise the answer is no, the rich will always exploit and pillage everyone around them, because there is no-one powerful and honest enough to regulate and stop them.

Ad Astra

6/08/2018

mick loughlin: I take your point.

Michelle Hartley: I agree. Can you imagine the Coalition examining itself in the forensic way a National ICAC would? Let’s hope Bill Shorten does what he has promised to do.

Jon Chesterson: Agree. A just penalty would be to pay back to the clients they defrauded the amounts they stole, with compound interest.

Our regulators are miserably weak. They will never be of any use until they clamp down hard on the institutions they are supposed to monitor. And they won’t do that while the government mouths platitudes but does nothing to discipline those who are supposed to discipline the wrongdoers. It’s hopeless with the lily-livered government we have in charge.

Bert

8/08/2018

Mick Loughlin, it wasn't the convicts so much that caused today's troubles, it was the unscrupulous barstewards they sent out to supervise, flog and hang the inmates. Modern day politics is just a continuation of what occurred back then but with an extra proviso applied by our modern day political and business leaders, I.E "What is mine is mine and what is yours is also mine". 

Ad Astra

8/08/2018

Folks

The saga of crookedness continued yesterday when the Superannuation Industry was quizzed by the Banking Royal Commission.

I was astonished, although I ought not to have been, to hear on The Drum last night what James Wheeldon, a barrister who once worked for the Regulatory Policy Branch of ASIC, told us of the culture there. He asserted that his supervisor told him that whatever the banks or their lobbyists wanted, they were to get! ASIC was clearly in collusion with the banks to protect them and advance their cause! The so-called ‘tough cop on the beat’ was there, not to penalize dishonest behaviour, but to cover it up!

Remember how the Coalition resisted the Banking Royal Commission on the grounds that with ASIC we had a ‘tough cop on the beat’ that was keeping the banks in line. What a charade that was!

Ad Astra

9/08/2018

Folks

Yesterday, the saga of dishonesty and crooked behaviour was expanded as the Royal Commission into Banking examined superannuation. The painful extraction of admissions of guilt continued with the forensic questioning of counsel assisting.

What is clear, day after day, is that the misdemeanors were quite deliberately planned and perpetrated! The perpetrators knew their behaviour was crooked, the Commission has exposed them in broad daylight for the crooks they are.

It was startling to see the Commissioner, with finger pointing, sternly caution one witness not to speak for another, and warn another about the possible criminality of the actions she took.

The miscreants must be shaking in their boots about what the Commissioner will report and recommend in his final deliberations. Criminal prosecution is possible, and so it should be after all the pain and anguish these crooks have caused among innocent clients trying to secure their financial future.

How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?