On fixing banking culture

Edward Zakrzewski writes: I hate the term “Banking Culture” which, by blaming the system, has the effect of absolving any individual from any illegality. The behaviour of some individuals in Westpac was most certainly illegal.  Paedophilia is a crime and more serious still, is the probable funding of terrorism which should have had ASIO and the AFP raiding Banking staff homes and offices.
Brian Crooks writes: This recession is no accident, it’s a direct result of conservative ideology and trickle down-economics. The whole plan is low wages, high profits, fiscal austerity coupled with these policies that mean government revenue lost will  be paid for by Howard’s GST and other taxes on the poorest of society. These measures  are also designed  to lower business and company costs, increase their profits, reduce tax on corporations and the wealthy.

Peter Frank writes: Actually I think it would probably be quite simple: Prison sentences for those found by the courts to be primarily responsible (and not excluding board members); and personal  financial penalties for these key individuals. Why should e.g. the Westpac CEO walk away free and clear with a $3 million severance? In this vein, anyone actually convicted should be required to reimburse shareholders for any legal costs incurred. Laws would obviously need to be passed by parliament to make such malfeasance a criminal matter and banking regulators would need to be adequately staffed, funded and  monitored to ensure they don’t again become captives of the very sector they’re supposed to be regulating.

Trevor Hockins writes: The government needs to pass adequate laws to protect whistleblowers, call for whistleblowers in the banking sector to come forward, and act on proven illegal acts urgently, by  penalising the minor players with large fines and confiscation of bonuses, and doing the same for senior officials before jailing them. Our banks are too important to fail, but they are also too integral to the lives of all Australians not to fix. With prejudice, if necessary.

On religious freedom

Don Wormald writes: My own view, like Rundle’s, is that religious freedom laws are really a grab for power by the proponents of a belief system in its terminal decline phase. Let’s face it, when you’ve exercised near total power for most of the past two millennia it’s hard to give it up! Last year I retired after 40 years as a retailer and I have a hypothetical for you. A couple of years ago I had to warn a member of staff to stop talking politics with customers. Not because his politics were different to my own (they weren’t) but because I could see customers whose views were different were uncomfortable. Uncomfortable customers could well be put off patronising the place so I had to warn him to cease and desist. What if the views he or she was proselytising were religious views rather than political? My view is that business comes first so if I had a staff member pushing a religious agenda I would be forced to intervene. The member of staff would receive a formal warning and, should he or she continue to push these views, would face dismissal after three warnings. As someone who used to draft bills earlier in my career I can only see trouble ahead trying to come to the right form of words to cover all eventualities — and the draftsmen have virtually no chance of covering all the bases. It is a nearly impossible task. The constitution makes it clear our forefathers did not want the state to get involved in legislating  religion so why bother when there really is no need.

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