By Ad astra
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.
This article was originally published on The Political Sword.
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