The
Labor Party in Australia is taking a softer attitude toward the banking
industry in this electoral cycle, if that is feasible.

Opportunities
fly by for soundbite politics on banking from the opposition.
Yesterday’s publication of evidence by Fujitsu Consulting and JP Morgan
into the high costs and inefficiencies of Australia’s banking oligopoly
provided the perfect platform for some well-aimed bank bashing. Yet for
some reason Labor stays mum.

In the meantime, Labor’s shadow
ministers drone on about superannuation while missing the easy opening
created by the financial planning industry’s dire record and
unfavourable image.

Keeping quiet about banking appears to be a
settled piece of Labor strategy, part of a wider campaign by the
party’s frontbench to revive relations with business (a constituency
said to be aggrieved by Labor’s approach in 2004, when led by Mark
Latham).

Labor’s policy position on banking in 2004 was hardly radical, and the policy was in essence the same as that adopted in 2001.

That
policy imposed a range of limitations on bank conduct and mandated some
investments. The only significant cost proposed then was a (one-off)
tax of up to $30 million to fund subsidies for the restoration of
in-person services in the bush. The only significant compliance cost
was a demand for an expanded version of the basic bank account.