My latest column for The CEO Magazine sees Scott Morrison enjoying his move to the political centre via the new bank levy.
I still haven’t worked out whether this particular $1.5 billion a year bank liabilities tax is actually good policy. But it has at least some policy justification.
And my column is not policy analysis; it’s an analysis of the Big Four banks’ behavior over the past two decades, and how easy they have made it for Morrison to start beating them up. Few people anywhere love banks, but Australia’s quite successful institutions have been peculiarly passive in the face of mounting hostility. Now they’re paying the price. This is not just my view; it’s Mark Textor’s view as well.
Not everyone agrees with this analysis. Here’s Mungo McCallum:
Turnbull and his mates have a lot more than a thousand quid to play with, but they are still seriously outgunned by the banks … It is not clear just what penalty rate the banks will offer their staff members to coerce them into the coming battle, but you can bet they will be willing to fight to the last man (or woman) to preserve their privileged positions. Whether Turnbull and Morrison will have the same stomach for a protracted and ugly campaign is yet to be seen.
Maybe. But my guess is that the banks will prove simply too conservative to mount a political campaign. They know it would stir up even more hostility. Unlike the miners, banks still have to deal with customers every day, and I’d pay good money to see bank tellers trying to explain to customers why the bank tax is a bad thing.
And besides, what would be the clarion call of their campaign? “Vote Labor to get rid of this terrible impost that we’re going to pass on to you”?
I don’t think so. The last really bold thing the Big Four banks did to shape consumers’ opinions of them was that innovative bunch of secret payments to Alan Jones and John Laws known as “cash for comment”, and that didn’t really work out so well. My guess is that eventually they’ll take it and smile. They don’t really know how to do anything else.