I’m taking another dig at Canberra today, but let me make one thing clear. I’m not taking sides. If you’ve followed my blogs you’ll know I’ve made equal use of my left and right boot. My agenda is two-fold. 1. I’m a shit-stirrer and I like to take shots at people in power when I think they deserve it. 2. Our ‘fair and equal’ democracy is an illusion, and the better we understand that the better we can take the power we need into our own hands…
It was a funny week in politics (which was nice because sometimes I think the best thing to come out of Canberra is the comedy).
And the government PR whizzes and spin-doctors must be throwing their hands up in despair. The Liberal party seemed hell-bent on painting itself as the party of top-hats, horse-drawn carriages, and class-based entitlement this week. They’re their own worst enemy (though I guess it’s lucky someone’s taken that job on. The Labor party are as ineffective in opposition as they were in government).
First up was the Attorney-General (effectively the top law man in the country), saying that “people do have a right to be bigots, you know.”
It was one of those rare unscripted moments. When a politician was speaking freely, and off-the-cuff.
The point he was trying to make is actually something I’d agree with. That is, some people believe things you don’t like. Part and parcel of living in a free country is that sometimes you have to hear about it, and you should put up with it.
But context is everything. And when you’re trying to unwind legislation against vilification (having ideas is one thing, using those ideas to hurt people is another) it’s not a good look. Even more so when the motivation for unwinding the protections is because Andrew Bolt found himself on the wrong side of the law.
If you’re looking for a poster-boy for free speech, a champion for people to rally around, Andrew Bolt isn’t it.
And so it was into this context that Brandis’ unscripted comments slipped out. But you don’t get a second chance in politics. Labor saw the gaffe for what is was, fired word down from the Senate to the House of Reps, and Tanya Plibersek was then asking the PM if he agreed with his attorney general that people have a right to be bigots.
And with that, the ‘framing’ was set in stone. The legislation was now completely about defending people’s (especially rich, white radio shock-jock’s) right to be bigots.
It’s hardly a glorious cause. There’s no public support for bigotry. No Royal Society for the Protection of Bigots.
The Coalition saw the writing was on the wall. They could either set themselves up as the champions of bigots everywhere (not a great look), or they could roll over.
They rolled over.
Ah politics. Another triumph of style over substance.
They also rolled over (at least temporarily) on the FOFA (Future of Financial Advice) reforms, for similar image issues I reckon.
I’ve written about these appalling reforms before, here. Basically, the original legislation removed conflicted remuneration from financial advice. The government planned to bring it back.
So basically, if you went to a financial advisor, and they said they were giving you general (rather than personal) advice, then they could flog you any crap they were getting commissions on, and wouldn’t have to tell you about it.
The banks pay their “distribution arms” (as they call them) a cut on any products they sell. So your advisor’s getting your money, but he’s also getting paid by the banks to sell their products.
You can see the “conflict”.
Imagine you take your car to a mechanic. He tells you that, generally speaking, you need a new radiator. He doesn’t tell you that this week he’s getting a 20% cut on every radiator he sells.
If it’s not criminal its certainly unethical. In financial planning, it’s standard practice.
Now I’ve been pretty hard on financial advisors in these blogs. But I’ve got to tip my hat to the Financial Planning Association. Their Head, Matthew Rowe, was on the ABC during the week saying that they rejected conflicted remuneration, and that the government’s reforms were a “retrograde step” that weren’t “in the best interests of consumers.”
Now there’s 18,000 financial planners in Australia. 10,000 are FPA members. That means there’s still at least 8,000 dodgy bastards out there.
But if the FPA was against it, who was for it?
It pretty much looked like the banks wrote the draft changes themselves. They want to protect their ‘distribution arms’.
But the changes were put on ice this week. Why? Because they were being driven by Arthur Sinidonis, who’s since had to step down to answer some pretty serious questions at a corruption inquiry (about his links to some corrupt Labor MPs! – see what I mean?).
Corrupt minister ignores consumers’ best interest to push through reforms that favour the banks.
Another awkward moment that went pretty much unnoticed in the week, was the appointment of the ‘international advisory board’ to the Murray banking inquiry.
I’ve noted before how ridiculous it is to have the former head of the CBA heading an inquiry into banking. You don’t put alcoholics on the liquor licensing board. The international appointments raise the same eyebrows.
Chief among them is former Westpac CEO David Morgan (what a fresh perspective he’ll bring), and CEO of Convertible Quantitative Strategies, Sir Michale Hintze.
Well Banking Day, that radical leftie rag, had this to say about him.
Michael Hintze… provided £3.7 million in funding to the Tories, including donations and soft loans between 2005 and 2011. He earned the sobriquet “Godfather of Tory donations” from one Labour MP.
The MP, John Mann, was quoted in the Daily Mail in 2011 asserting that Hintze was “putting his money behind the key people in the party very deliberately. People never give money for nothing. They want something in return, they want influence.”
Michael Hintze is a hedge fund boss and where he wants influence is over financial regulation,” Mann alleged.
Champions of the banks, the bigots and the landed gentry..?
How are they going to spin this one?