As the National Australia Bank gets ready to axe another 2,000 Australian staff this week, one potential motivation might be the news that the Commonwealth Bank has now knocked them off for the title of “Australia’s biggest bank” on the sharemarket.

CBA briefly stole NAB’s long-held title last year but then slipped back. But it made another surge in early February and appears to have held the title by up to $3 billion since then. NAB shares are up 6c to $29.31 this morning and CBA is down 12c to $36.60, leaving the margin at just over $1 billion with CBA capitalised at $46.74 billion and NAB at $45.67 billion.

The CBA revamp of its internet banking service might be the latest gouge driving its share price higher because new and steep fees have been announced over the past two weeks. ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine ran a concerted campaign on the move early last week but the rest of the media hasn’t done much beyond reporting the news.

The Age:Commonwealth Bank slammed on net fees
SMH:Onling banking hits hip pocket nerve
Herald Sun:Internet banking fees backflip

ANZ is the only major bank that hasn’t introduced regular fees for internet banking and Faine went close to locking in spin doctor Paul Edwards to a commitment that they wouldn’t follow suit. But don’t hold your breath as the banking cartel has a long history of taking in in turns to pioneer new charges and cost savings.

The CBA’s changes come into effect on 1 July, just as the Howard Government assumes control of the Senate. It is baffling that Treasurer Peter Costello sits back and does absolutely nothing about these blatant rip-offs, when he has enormous power under The Banking Act.

The CBA is actually making Costello look silly because he agreed to sell 50.1% of the bank for about $10.50 a share in 1996. The people who bought those shares have enjoyed returns of more than 500%, mainly because Costello has literally let the banking cartel go for the lives, even though no other Australian industry is more profitable or generates more complaints from consumers.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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