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Malcolm, who's advising you about this Royal Commission?

Peter Switzer
23 April 2018


What’s really frustrating about the Turnbull Government is not the actual policies they’ve been implementing (a top forecaster confirms this), it’s the lack of media-savvy personnel in Canberra.

The politicians themselves are doing an OK job, so it must be their advisers who are hopeless.

For example, I contacted the Prime Minister’s media team and invited him to do a Coffee with Switzer. Our database goes to 150,000 people, I have close to 10,000 followers on twitter, a huge group of people on Linkedin and Facebook who want to friend me and oh yes, there’s a TV show on the Sky Business Channel and of course daily finance reports on 2GB and 4BC. To date, I haven’t even had a courteous “sorry, can’t make it!”

Over the past two weeks, my finance business held its annual investor strategy day and we had over 2000 people show up, with a majority worried about Bill Shorten’s banning of tax refunds to retirees who aren’t on the pension.

I mentioned this in my Weekend Switzer column but it bears repeating here because the PM needs some tough love.

Why the PM on this subject, when it’s Bill’s ban? Well, to date, the Government’s response has been hopeless!

When I was asked by a lady who was concerned about the loss of her refund and what she could do, I cheekily reminded the group that they probably all had kids who were happy to know one day they would inherit money to make up for their eventual loss. I told them it was time they did the work a smart politician would have been doing in telling them that Bill is shrinking their inheritance and making their parents’ lives less materially livable!

But this should have been Malcolm’s response. He was more concerned about a bonking ban rather than Bill’s ban that directly affected his constituents.

Who is advising the PM?

This tough love is coming from someone like me who thinks he’s the right man for the job, given what the economy is doing under his stewardship but, in so many other areas, he’s ben disappointing with the politics.

Who advised him on Barnaby? That hasn’t worked out and the reality is that he should have supported his Deputy PM in public, showing compassion for his family and then kicked him in the butt privately.

Malcolm has one thing going for him and that’s the economy and Deloitte’s respected economist, Chris Richardson has told us so with the Budget only three weeks away.

This could prove to be Malcolm’s Waterloo, as some of his team think he’s a goner, with 30 Newspolls saying the Government is doomed but the economy is his only chance of hosing down his hot-headed enemies in the Government.

Here’s what Chris is seeing right now:

  The improving local and overseas economies are delivering a lot of revenue to Treasury.

• End of mining boom negatives have passed and mining companies are more profitable and paying taxes.

• Jobs growth has been “extraordinary”, with 357,000 positions created over 2017.

• The budget deficit is tumbling down.

• Decent wage rises are on the way.

“Until now, the good news has been concentrated on the relatively small number of people gaining jobs,” he said. “The next phase will make the average punter happier.” (The Age)

That has to be good for Malcolm and bad for Bill but I don’t know if Malcolm and his team will leverage off this improving economy.

Just look at the way they’re handling the Royal Commission. The PM and the Treasurer have basically said they didn’t know how bad things were in the financial sector, with the latter pumping up penalties.

Meanwhile, Kelly O’Dwyer, the Finance Services Minister, is refusing to say the delaying of the Royal Commission was wrong.

Once again, this isn’t smart politics. What’s needed (which I’ve been arguing for decades) is a fair dinkum banking consumer claims tribunal, where there are no lawyers but simply the bank, the customer and an adjudicator.

I’ve personally taken two dodgey builders to these tribunals and the bad guys got the punishment they deserved in one meeting that took a couple of hours.

The cost of setting up and maintaining these tribunals could be borne by the finance industry via levies but a government department could run it, just as the consumer tribunals are in the states.

Sure, it will be expensive, but a lot cheaper than all the market capitalization costs and the eventual advertising and PR that will be needed to repair the banks’ reputation and trust.

This is the time for a leader to stand up to fix our relationships with our financial services industry and it’s going to take a big man or woman to do it.

Penalties will wear off but an ongoing tribunal reviewing bad behaviour by banks, insurance companies and so on, will not only be good for consumers, it will create better businesses that their customers can trust.

P.S. The Coffee with Switzer invite still stands Malcolm.

Peter Switzer's book Join the Rich Club is on sale for 30% off from the Switzer Store until the end of Easter. Click here to pick up a copy today!

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