British Prime Minister Theresa May has battled to deliver the will of the people without support.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has battled to deliver the will of the people without support.

Backflips deny community will

OPINION:

THE Financial Services Royal Commission attracted submissions from across Australia from people whose lives have been horrifically impacted by the poor behaviour of big banks and others in the sector.

Given what was uncovered and how much remained untouched there was valid argument that its deliberations should have been extended.

Certainly there were submissions about bank behaviour that deserve far greater scrutiny yet were not noted in the final report.

Further resourcing of the royal commission to allow it to delve into areas that remain untouched should be a subject of considerable debate on the eve of a federal election, yet appears to have dropped off the political agenda.

Instead, we have witnessed the shelving of a Commission recommendation to do away with tailing commissions for mortgage brokers.

Commissioner Hayne and his team saw the payments as not only excessive compensation for a service, but also as another corrupting incentive to do the wrong thing.

Examples of the impact were publicly on display in the victim testimony of those who had been given loans they were manifestly incapable of servicing. Mortgage brokers - the largest of which generate fees in the order of $50million annually - claim independence, yet in many respects have been well-paid agents of the banks.

The Commission thought the business model corrosive and recommended change.

Under pressure from the sector and desperate for votes wherever it can find them, the Morrison Government has folded, backflipping its initial decision to implement the recommendation.

No wonder Justice Hayne was so unwilling to participate in a "happy snap" with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg when he handed down his final report.

The weight of complaints about poor behaviour in the financial services' sector prompted the parliamentary vote that led to a royal commission after the Coalition Government had repeatedly voted against the proposal.

The will of the Australian people forced politicians to eventually represent their wishes. What then does the winding back of one of the Commission's recommendations represent? And just where does Labor stand?

Contrast the behaviour with that of British Prime Minister Theresa May who ages before our eyes as she attempts to enact the will of Britons as expressed in the 2016 Brexit referendum vote.

Regardless of the merits of Brexit, it won majority support leaving the British Parliament obligated to act cooperatively to deliver the people's will.

May has understood her obligation to democracy implicitly and has pursued a Euro deal in the face of opposition both internal and external to her party. She has paid a heavy price in her fight to maintain trust in democracy while all around her, politicians bay for her blood.

The UK Parliament really has no choice other than to enact the will of the people or go to a general election to test the Brexit referendum outcome.

In Australia, any politician who thinks our financial services sector can simply return to business as usual has both misread the mood of the electorate and underestimated the resolve for justice.

The major parties can bemoan the rise of independents and minor parties, but unless they are prepared to act to address the power imbalance that has developed as a feature of modern Australia, that trend will continue.

Red tape a necessity

No one would disagree that unnecessary bureaucratic red tape is a hindrance to the efficient conduct of business and personal life.

Cutting it where it serves no purpose makes sense, but not to the point where regulatory oversight is lost.

Business acts in the interests of profit. Proper oversight is required to ensure the short-term motivation that can generate does not override the public interest.

The Palaszczuk Government's stiffening of Minimum Financial Requirements in the construction industry re-exerts oversight and should better ensure businesses retain the capacity to pay their debts.

A special joint taskforce headed by retired Justice John Byrne will now investigate allegations of corrupt practices in the sector and it was good to hear the resolve of the Premier and Housing Minister Mick de Brenni when they were in town this week to pursue prosecutions where evidence existed to support such action.

Of that there is already plenty. It is now to be hoped the investigation's processes encourage more people damaged by the power imbalance in the construction sector to come forward and expose the conduct they have previously been left to endure in silence.