The Banking Commission
The Royal Commission into Australia’s banking system has hit its stride, and all sorts of nasty practices are coming to light. Here’s a few of the hi-lights:
- The Commonwealth Bank has charged dead clients for financial advice. This was shortly after the Commonwealth Bank admitted to being the worst financial services body in Australia for charging fees for financial advice that customers never receive.
- Head of financial advice at AMP admitted he had lost count of the number of times the company misled the corporate regulator. AMP is also a fan of charging customers for services they never receive.
- The Commonwealth Bank kept offering to increase the credit card limit of a customer who was begging them to stop because he had gambling addiction and a $30,000 debt.
- Both ANZ and NAB are being told off for not supplying documents to the commission. In particular, ANZ has withheld a document that proves the regulator is still nagging them to fix a problem that is three years old.
- All banks are absolutely hammered by administration and processing errors. Since mid-2010, around $239 million has been repaid to over half a million customers who have been buggered by the systems – and that’s just the ones everyone knows about.
- Around 60% of loans approved by ANZ are submitted by a broker and not properly verified.
- Around 20 NAB staff were involved in a bribery scandal, involving fake identification and forged documents in Western Sydney.
It’s worth keeping in mind at this point that this commission was opposed by the Turnbull government for as long as possible, only finally surrendering to it earlier this year after mounting pressure. Now Minister Scott Morrison has gone so far as to float potential jail time for the worst corporate offenders. At the very least, the former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has suggested that the big banks will need to seperate from their financial planning and services branches entirely to avoid rampant conflicts of interest.
The Greens Want Cannabis
The Greens launched a major campaign this week to legalise cannabis. They quoted a poll which says that 55% of Aussies believe weed should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco, and pointed to medical and legal experts who said the ‘tough on drugs’ stance simply doesn’t work. The move comes in the wake of states and territories trailing a program that would see faster access to medicinal cannabis.
Northern Territory Fracking
The Northern Territory government has overturned a ban on fracking, opening around 700,000 square kilometres of land up to gas exploration. There are concerns about threats to the environment, water health and a huge rise in greenhouse gas emissions, but the NT government say they’re standing by their consultation process and election promises.
A Push for Gay Conversion Therapy
Embarrassment for the Liberal Party this week, after it was leaked that the Victorian branch will debate a motion calling for the law to be changed to ensure doctors “can offer counselling out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning” – which many commentators saw as a frightening link to ‘gay conversion therapy’. A seperate motion from the Geelong branch seeks to have “sexual orientation” eliminated from the federal Sex Discrimination Act, enabling discrimination against LGBTI people.
1 in 5 Aussie Kids Are Hungry
A new report released at the beginning of the week says 1 in 5 Aussie kids have gone hungry in the past 12 months. 1 in 5 kids will go to school without eating breakfast at least once a week. 1 in 10 go a whole day once a week without eating anything at all. The report is from an organisation called Foodbank, who blame rising living costs and economic pressures on working class families for the sad state of affairs.
There are reports from South Korea that Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea, could be preparing to announce his willingness to denuclearise his country and work towards a treaty with its long-time neighbour and rival. Diplomacy continues between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States. Kim Jong-Un is still apparently on track to meet Trump at some point.
If you’ve read the last couple of news summaries, you know that America has been making a lot of noise about punishing Syria for chemical weapons attacks on its citizens. Last weekend, the US conducted airstrikes on three sites in Syria, which they say attacked the “heart” of their chemical weapons program. The United States simultaneously admitted that the Syrian government has probably retained some of their ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks, but the States is prepared to attack again. Indeed, it’s the second time in a year that they’ve targeted the Syrian military.
Another Trump Book
It’s been a few months since ‘Fire and The Fury’ was released – the tell-all insider story of the incompetencies of the Trump White House. This week, former FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump, released his autobiography A Higher Loyalty. It’s a bit of a snooze-fest apparently. But, in news that surprises no one in particular, he describes Trump as morally unfit to be President, and also attacks his ties (they’re too long), and his hands (they’re quite small).
Women’s Self-Defence In India
There’s a quiet revolution happening among India’s youngest people. There’s growing anxiety about the safety of India’s women. In 2012, the brutal beating and gang rape of a woman riding a bus gained international attention. Earlier this month, an eight year old girl was raped, tortured and killed. In response, many schools and universities are taking up the police’s offer of free defence classes, and courses for adults including “gender sensitisation for boys”, which teaches men respectful behaviour towards women.
NASA searches for aliens
NASA launched TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, on a mission to scan the sky for at least two years, looking for planets that may support life. From The New York Times: “Over the last 30 years, astronomers on Earth and in space, using instruments like the Kepler spacecraft, have discovered 4,000 exoplanets, most of them far, far away. Our galaxy, astronomers now think, has more planets than stars. TESS will find the closest of these planets to Earth, pinpointing targets for the next generation of telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope, to study for clues to their habitability or even inhabitants.” (Pssst…that’s code for aliens.)
Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer
US rapper Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize this week for his album DAMN. He was the first non-jazz or classical artist to win the award. There’s been continued upset over the Grammy’s repeated snubbing of Kendrick Lamar – who is, by all accounts, a genius. I highly recommend listening to the album, than going on genius.com and getting the full scope of his lyrics and song construction. You’ll be blown away.
Photo at the top courtesy of The New York Times.
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