BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Ken Hayne
Banking royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne.

Poor David Littleproud. The agriculture minister has been scandalised by this week’s news that ANZ will introduce a new climate change policy that will see the bank take steps towards supporting a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

“Banks are not and should not try to become society’s moral compass and arbiter,” he proclaimed. “The Australian people decide that by who they elect.”

We hate to break this to you, David, but literally no one sees the banks as society’s moral compass. At least not after some of these notable scandals in which their morals were famously missing. Here’s a refresher in case you’ve forgotten.

Child exploitation

If you think putting a net zero emissions test on loans is bad, wait until you hear about how Westpac let its customers pay for child sexual exploitation for years.

Yes, this really happened and most people remember it because it was one of the biggest scandals to come out of the sector in decades.

But if you need a reminder, the bank was caught breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terror finance laws around 23 million times and allowed customers to make payments to people in the Philippines who were later arrested for child sex trafficking and livestreaming child sexual abuse. 

Fees for no service

Yes, you could say forcing customers to meet climate change conditions puts pressure on farmers and big construction firms.

But what’s really immoral is charging customers a fee for no service, a real thing that the banks did for years. Royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne labelled the practice “dishonest” and “inexcusable”. We shudder to think what he’d say about the zero emissions test.

Charging dead people fees

Sure, asking that your customers don’t cause irreversible damage to the planet might seem “out of touch” to some.

But do you know what’s really not cool? Charging dead people fees. Three of Australia’s biggest banks — CBA, NAB and AMP — did this, and some even continued the practice after they got caught. 

Going after farmers

As agriculture minister, surely you’ve heard of this one? Drought-stricken graziers hit with hefty penalties for defaulting on their loans? Not very moral. It came up at the banking royal commission — you know, the royal commission we had to have into the sector because it had no moral compass? Guess that one passed you by too.

Peter Fray

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