It was a comfort to see government moving to try to do something about the scourge of gambling. The gaming industry may not be the killers of the tobacco companies, but they live off the earnings that they derive from wrecking lives. They are evil. They also ruin the TV coverage of sporting events with blanket advertising designed by crooks to appeal to idiots. That is now the modus operandi made famous by Donald Trump. They also employ the technique of Saint Ignatius Loyola and McDonald’s – get’em young enough and you have them for life. There is now a whole generation of people conditioned to associate any sport or contest with gambling – and they all carry around an SP bookie and a totalisator in their pockets. It’s a deadly cocktail, an ugly dance between thieves and fools.
And what have we done so far? We have insisted that they put out the message: ‘Gamble responsibly.’ That’s even less use than ‘Shag safely’ or ‘Drink in moderation’, or the source of a political ad, spat out at you with the speed of Bren gun. It’s also an insult to our intelligence and a confession not just of failure but of helplessness and the never ending mediocrity of our politics.
It was also a comfort to see the AFL doing something about the reliance of so many of its clubs on income derived from gaming, and poker machines in particular. You don’t see too many brain surgeons or nuclear physicists queuing up to give their money away to machines that are programmed to give back a fixed amount less than what they receive. It is, frankly, hard to see how a club can call itself the ‘Family Club’ when it depends on income derived from bringing misery to families. I am not blind to economics, but I can’t see why the AFL could not put in place a program to ensure that after, say, ten years, it will be ‘clean’.
The financial press, and at least one shareholder, did not take comfort from the CBA announcement of its new CEO, an in-house appointment of a man who was in charge of retail banking. The Editor of the AFR wondered if the decision was ‘crazy brave or just plain crazy.’ Many, it seems, had hoped for new eyes to look over the wreckage that was a main propellant of the Royal Commission and that made Mr Narev one of the most unloved figures in Australian public life. Instead, the new old boy put on a Keystone Cops performance for the press, and the Chair, Catherine Livingstone said, with her best Presbyterian headmistress mien:
With Matt [Comyn’s] appointment today, the board believes we are delivering renewal and change, but change that will build on the many strengths of the organisation that have been enhanced or introduced on Ian’s watch,…The board’s main priorities in selecting the new CEO were to identify the candidate who will … transform the business and adapt the organisational capability and culture.
For some reason, that reminds me of Theresa May talking about Brexit, or a geography teacher talking about weather patterns in a Patagonian autumn. Do you not think that we shareholders – yes, dear reader, I am one of them – could at least have been spared a reminder of ‘Ian’s watch’? That’s about as sensitive as asking Adam if he still thinks it was a good idea to follow his squeeze and partake of the apple. But, as bullshit goes, this is as refined a grain as you find. And it does suggest that only one thing matters for the directors who manage the business of our banks – profit. Greed remains good.
By contrast, the CEO of another bank found his bank’s submission to the Royal Commission ‘confronting.’ You would think that they may have learned from the scandals that led to another Royal Commission. What inflames ordinary people is just what gets up the noses of sentencing judges – the absence of remorse. One of the factors that distinguish clergymen from bank executives is the rate of pay – about ten thousand per cent, say.
Nor was it a comfort to be reminded that Stephen Conroy now fronts for the gaming industry. In addition to collecting the pension that you and I pay him, he now gets filthy lucre for spreading misery among his fellow Australians. Is it not time that these double-dipping racecourse touts, bludgers, layabouts, and urgers were brought to heel?