THE LAST GASP: Banking bloopers

The banks make friends, the ALP loses them and climate change is solved.

This week, the ALP floors the world of politics with infighting, the Star controversy threatens to sully the good name of casinos and the big banks hope to control time itself.

Penalty kick

In a move that led to a country-wide epidemic of incredulous coffee spitting, the big banks have made a joint application to Fair Work Australia asking for a change to penalty rate payments. The lenders are pushing to have working hours redefined in order to remove the concept of the weekend, and want Saturday and Sunday to count as normal working days. The embattled industry is clearly suffering under the weight of these exorbitant wage costs, which saw the big four post a combined profit of only $24 billion last year. A spokesman for the banks said the lenders could not understand why their staff would threaten company margins by attempting to claim adequate payment for their services. The changes are reportedly only the start of a campaign by the banks to control such definitions, and are soon expected to spread to the concepts of holidays, salaries and fairness.

Divide and stumble

Divisions in the federal Labor party have again resurfaced, surprising many who believed it was all fine and dandy after that crippling leadership ballot circus only a month or so ago. The latest step out of line came from recently dumped cabinet minister Robert McClelland, who said the public was "fed up” with spin from the government, and urged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to explain why she had introduced a carbon tax despite promising not to do so. Gillard was having none of it, and said there was no way she would be changing her position. The disagreement has come at a bad time for the ALP, with the latest Newspoll indicating that the party looks headed for the biggest landslide election defeat seen since the last time it contested an election. Most of the heat has been directed at the government’s immovable pledge to return the country to surplus, despite varying opinions on both its possibility and purpose. The ALP has hit back at these suggestions, claiming they are sick to death of people questioning their motives with all of these inconvenient facts.

You don’t say

Unable to grasp why their innocent leviathan-profit making activities could affect their reputation amongst the general public, the Australian Bankers Association has tapped consultancy group Futureye to look into the issue. The group hopes to explore how companies can lose their ‘social license’ to operate and be subject to regulation should they fall short of community expectations, confirming that the banks are fine with poor public perception until it begins to affect their profits. A spokesman said the banks were at a loss as to why they were so disliked, but have safely ruled out charging customers for seemingly costless services, hiking interest rates and trying to abolish the concept of the weekend.

The house always wins

The controversy surrounding Sydney’s The Star casino deepened this week, shocking an industry otherwise known for its integrity and fantastic contribution to society. Star owner Echo Entertainment Group has admitted leaking texts and e-mails from an employee at the group, whose claims of sexual harassment led to the sacking of former Star managing director Sid Vaikunta. Now Echo chief executive Larry Mullin looks set to give evidence at an inquiry into the case as early as next week, and New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has accused the company of running a smear campaign against the woman. In better news for the sector, Clive Palmer has denied reports he was planning to invest in a casino on the Sunshine Coast. Sources say Palmer was concerned over what influence the CIA had in the industry, and what connection they have, if any, to the cyborg ninjas living under his bed.

The cut’s on you

The government’s surplus push has claimed more victims this week, with one-third of the workforce at the Department of Climate Change cut as part of an effort to curtail spending. It’s a logical move by the government, given the groundbreaking work it has already done tackling carbon emissions has almost cured the world of the problem, making the positions mostly redundant anyway. The department has written to all staff asking for voluntary redundancies, and says it needs to cut 300 positions due to the "conclusion of a range of programs”. The government has rubbished claims that the move was the result of an administrative error, despite suggestions the department was asked to cut its emissions, not commissioners.

Quick misses

– JB Hi-Fi chairman Patrick Elliott has stepped down from his role after 12 years with the company, to focus on commitments in the private equity sector. Observers said it was a surprising move given the bustling state of the Australian retail industry.

– Clubs Australia has withdrawn its advertising against proposed pokie laws. The industry body said the move is not a sign it was claiming a win, and was reportedly way too busy celebrating the victory to claim anything anyway.

– Victorian Supreme Court Justice Tony Pagone has removed himself from the court case surrounding Solomon Lew and his family, the only current Australian case involving a well known business identity and a fight over the family trust fund.

– OneSteel has announced plans to change its name to Arrium Limited, in a move it said reflects the significant changes to the nature of its business made in recent years. It made no mention of disassociating itself from the raft of recent job cuts and asset sales at the group. Or writedowns. Or huge swing to a first-half loss.

– And finally, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd chief executive Australia Phil Chronican has slammed the global response to the financial crisis, labelling it inconsistent and lacking coordination, and said global efforts to tackle climate change, illicit drugs and global hunger have been much more effective.

Related Articles