Joe Hockey and the banks
Joe Hockey was Minister for Financial Services and Regulation from 1998 to 2001. He put in place much of the ongoing CLERP reform process and did much of the preparation for what became the Financial Sector Reform Act 2002, key legislation that managed corporate Australia through a boom and maintained it through the rocky times recently. He took on an untidy boardroom brawl within AMP, fingering then-chairman Ian Burgess for his inept approach at managing both people and money. Burgess, a prominent and long-serving company director, went straight to then-Prime Minister Howard and whinged about the young whipper-snapper but Hockey was right and to his credit, Howard stood by Hockey.
Cut forward to now, and Hockey is a senior member of the Coalition in Federal Parliament. Howard, Costello and others with greater experience in corporate and prudential regulation have moved on. In fact, with the possible exception of Turnbull I can't see anyone in the Federal Parliamentary Coalition parties who has half as much experience in this area as Hockey. Looking at the Press Gallery, I can see plenty there who would have been all over the story MINISTER CRITICISES AMP SHOCK.
For all that, the journosphere consensus is that Hockey is just bagging the banks because that's what pollies in opposition do, in response to this week's polls and last week's focus groups. This is unfair to Hockey, but he's big enough to cop that. What's worse is that it's unfair to the debate on whether our financial system is well regulated. Hockey's proposals clearly don't work from the perspective of making disengaged voters sit up and take notice; but maybe they weren't intended that way, and (based on his record) we have no reason to assume they constitute idle kite-flying on his part. It's possible that they embody ideas he's been thinking about for a long time, and they deserve consideration by others who have done the hard yards without being self-interested.
Speaking of self-interest, these three did themselves no favours in light of Hockey's proposals:
- Abbott was weak not to stand by Hockey yesterday. I wish more TV outlets had showed Abbott opening and closing his mouth like a landed fish in response to media questions on a matter that is clearly too hard for him to understand. I'm so glad he's not Prime Minister;
- Swan too looks weak in clinging to the status quo, while 'calling for restraint'. He's the third Labor Treasurer from Queensland: the conservatives brought down Theodore (and in doing so intimidated Lyons into abandoning Labor) and they later brought down Hayden, whom Swan advised; reformers both. Swan, with his reforms behind him having stayed in the saddle during the wild ride of the GFC, has no stomach for reform and is hoping just to create FUD and muddy the waters. He is a lot like John Howard as Malcolm Fraser's Treasurer; and
- Michael Smith, CEO of ANZ, reminded me a lot of Burgess with his pompous and flatulent response to Hockey. He wouldn't know populism if it shot him in the leg. Rather than 'report the controversy', Smith's comments belong in the realm of 'he would say that, wouldn't he'. The journosphere should have asked Smith about the public that money that pumped up his results announcements, his share price (Disclosure: I'm an ANZ shareholder) and his reputation as a manager during tough times. If Swan quotes Smith in support of an attack of his own against Hockey, Swan will