Respect@Work report
(Image: Gorkie/Private Media)

Yesterday’s much-hyped Respect@Work report might be this year’s banking royal commission for this government.

It’s been two years and two months since Kenneth Hayne brought down his report into the shocking and endemic scandals rife in the banking sector. It provoked outrage and vows from the government to clean up the industry and change the culture of greed and downright criminality.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government would act on all of Hayne’s 76 recommendations, even though lobbying from mortgage brokers meant there was almost immediate backsliding. About a dozen “commitments” were acted on at the outset. And then… well, not much.

Six months later, Frydenberg revealed an “implementation road map” for around 54 of those recommendations which he said would be legislation by the end of 2019. Of course, it dragged into 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic proved a convenient roadblock to further moves on reform.

Actually, forget reform. There is now widespread fear the government is openly trashing the Hayne legacy with Frydenberg’s determination to abolish responsible lending laws.

The treasurer claims that more than 70% of the Hayne recommendations requiring action by the executive government have been implemented, but an analysis by Ben Butler in The Guardian on January 19 this year found that more than half of the recommendations had either been abandoned or were yet to be fully implemented.

In a followup story only this week, Butler noted that Australian bank culture has not improved since the royal commission according to banking staff. In fact, they say, it’s “worse than ever”.

Do we see a pattern here?

The fact that the government had Kate Jenkins’ report for a year and only saw its urgency once gender became a political problem does not auger well for the implementation of her recommendations to fight sexual harassment.

Of course, now we have the female ministers’ taskforce to ensure action is taken. But let’s wait for the pushback from small businesses or the lobbying from the judges outraged at having to abide by the same laws as everyone else.

Let’s see where we are in two years time on this one.