When life is good, as it mostly is in the ‘lucky country’, Australians like to say they’ve got “no wuckin’ forries”.
And for years, few Australians had less to worry about than the country’s bankers and financiers, profitably cossetted in a cosy government-protected cartel in a booming economy, and largely spared the competitive steel that hardens their kind in most other markets.
In its wake, powerful heads rolled, swords were fallen on, a chastened industry transformed – for the time being. As a gale of revelations of sharp practices blew across the sector, it turned out Australians had so many, er, wuckin’ forries that a book could’ve been written about them.
Melbourne journalist Daniel Ziffer did. He sat through near every day of the year-long probe and has published what he saw and heard.
Described by one critic as "wucking funderful", Ziffer’s A Wunch of Bankers is part-diary, part-reporting, part-excoriation of an out-of-control industry; the dodgy scams, the lax regulation, the banal venality of the powerful wilfully misguiding the vulnerable.
But after putting his notebook down, Ziffer is still to be convinced that the system is for changing in the land of Oz.
“Can the practices of a generation, the literal contempt many of these people had for their clients, change?” he posits to Euromoney. “It’s way too early to tell.”
It’s sobering stuff. But beyond the compelling personal stories to come out of the commission, perhaps Ziffer’s longer-lasting contribution to this unhappy chapter in Corporate Australia is to provide the collective noun for bankers that many Down Under have been looking for.