Last week, a queue of angry farmers lined up at the Banking Royal Commission. It was their day in Court, if you like.
The media loved it -- hard working people thrown off their land thanks to greedy bankers. According to one news outlet, ANZ lacked empathy for demanding repayment from one couple who'd thrown the timber plantation dice (and lost), owing millions.
Before that, we heard all about crook financial planners, including the contemptible Sam Henderson who tried to blame his staff for crap advice that would have lost his client $500,000.
Look, I've got no tolerance for financial advisers like Henderson. I'm not a fan of banks who screw people when they're down.
But the tree farming couple, like a lot of people who fronted the RC had options. Most were wealthy and had access to legal and accounting advice. Very few were prepared to accept any personal responsibility for their situation (hint - if you're borrowing millions of dollars, it's smart to do your homework).
So while I've got some empathy for a farmer who's lost money, I've got a lot more for an indigenous Australian who's been fucked over by a white-shoed charlatan from the Gold Coast.
This week, the Royal Commission's been looking at the people who provide 'financial services' to people in remote aboriginal communities.
Here's a sample of what's been uncovered:
- People who charge ATM withdrawal fees of $40 (with a $200 minimum withdrawal). Don't like it? Tough. There's another ATM 500km down the road.
- Car salesmen who ship a truckload of rusted out shitbox cars to a remote community, then flog them using easy finance (at 48%) and useless insurance. A year later, they return and repossess the cars for late payments, shipping them to another community. Rinse and repeat.
- Super funds who refuse to pay out because the member can't produce 100 points of ID. Look, when I moved to Brisbane from Melbourne I couldn't convince the Transport Department I was real. So imagine trying to lodge a claim when you don't have a birth certificate, don't have great English and live 2,000 from a capital city.
But it's the weasels from the Aboriginal Community Funeral Plan (from the Gold Coast of course) who take the cake.
First, it's not an Aboriginal organisation. Second, their only involvement with community is ripping money out of it. And according to evidence, they employ 'dark skinned' staff to con people into believing they are an indigenous organisation.
Funeral insurance is virtually worthless at the best of times -- and when sold without proper disclosure to people without regular income who can't read the fine print, then I reckon it's organised theft.
Yet these people have been allowed to sell funeral insurance door-to-door. For decades.
The really sad thing is most of these practices are probably legal, and people have been turning a blind eye to them for years. The RC will put an end to some of it, but that's too late for thousands of indigenous people.
There's an old saying that you can measure a community by how it treats its old folk.
I'd go a step further, and say we should measure our maturity as a nation by how we treat Australia's first people.
If the last two days of Royal Commission hearings are a guide, we're failing.