Banking Royal Commission: Australian Unions to Collect Victims’ Stories

Australia’s unions are launching an online tool to collect the public’s stories of banking misconduct, fraud and criminal activity before the start of the banking royal commission.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry, announced abruptly last November, does not yet allow for public submissions from victims of banking exploitation.

In order to “make the banks accountable”, the ACTU will collect stories and complaints from victims via a webpage and present them en masse to the royal commission.

“The commission seems to be dragging its feet on allowing submissions,” said the president of the ACTU, Ged Kearney. “Its deadline to report is only nine months away. We are eager to do anything we can to enable more voices to be heard.”

The $75m royal commission is due to make its final report by 1 February 2019 and will be headed by former high court judge Kenneth Hayne. A draft report is due by 30 September.

Malcolm Turnbull announced the commission at the end of November, just two days after he declared the government was against such a proposal. The move was “regrettable but necessary”, he said, after the big four banks told the treasurer, Scott Morrison, they wanted a royal commission to end uncertainty over the matter.

“This will not be an open-ended commission, it will not put capitalism on trial, as some people in the parliament prefer,” Turnbull said at the time.

The big banks apart, the scope of the commission also includes smaller banks, wealth managers, superannuation providers, mortgage brokers and insurance companies.

In December, the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, attacked the terms of reference for the commission, saying “if the Turnbull government does not get this right from the start, we will only see a continuation of the financial scandals”.

“The terms of reference must enable the royal commission to investigate the rorts and rip-offs to the fullest extent possible,” he said.

“It is also critical that consultation with banking victims’ groups occurs, to ensure that the victims are able to tell their stories. We also believe there should be strong protections put in place for whistle-blowers.”

Bowen also asked the government to consider appointing additional commissioners to cope with the “heavy workload” of the inquiry.

Kearney echoed Labor’s concerns, saying any restrictions on the public submissions would “only confirm the suspicions of the Australian people that the Turnbull government is more interested in protecting the banks than in ensuring that the system is fair”.

The royal commission is expected to begin early this year.