Westpac CEO Dr David Morgan has taken over
from ANZ’s John McFarlane as chairman of the Australian Bankers’
Association. As the leader of Australia’s most lucrative cartel, it
will be interesting to see how generous Morgan is with the estimated
$40-50 million he’s made since leaving the federal Treasury.

McFarlane
is a Scot and probably the most charming bank CEO Australia has seen in
recent years as his ability to humanise the industry has impressed
many. Donating $250,000 of his own money to the tsunami appeal during
the all-channel telethon was certainly a high point. We never saw dour
bank CEOs like Frank Cicutto or David Murray doing anything similar.

The
question for bank regulators and federal treasurer Peter Costello is
how much gouging will be allowed by the members of the ABA before they
will step in and take some action?

Back in my days editing the business section of the Herald Sun,
I had very few disagreements with News Ltd’s Terry McCrann but one
small debate we once had concerned the bank cartel. I thought they were
ripping off the public blind back when their collective gross profits
were about half the current $15 billion a year, but McCrann didn’t
agree and couldn’t see the problem.

I’m not aware of McCrann ever attacking the cartel in the way that The AFR’s Chanticleer columnist John Durie has stuck the boot in, but finally he has been stirred into action with this column
for the News Ltd Sundays after Diners Club gouged him personally.
Millions of Australians getting ripped off hasn’t been a problem, but
when McCrann cops a particularly egregious slug, he’s belatedly moved
to comment.

It just goes to show that everything is local.

Peter Fray

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