Politicians and the banks - an awkward revelation

Both Scott Morrison and Chris Bowen have
faced an awkward truth today.

There’s a popular saying that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones… but I reckon people do it all the time.

Probably the most common occurrence of this is in politics.  Politicians continually wax lyrical about poor behaviour from their opponents, but quite often they’re guilty of the exact same offence.

One story in particular caught my eye today – the fact that the Big Banks have made seriously big donations to both of the major political parties.

According to The Australian: AMP and the nation’s big banks were at least 12 times more likely than any other of the ­nation’s biggest 200 listed companies to ­donate or make other payments to the federal Liberal Party or the ALP last financial year.

It seems the Big 4 Banks donated around $280,000 to the Liberal Party and $250,000 to the Labor Party.

This is at least a little embarrassing, to say the least, given both sides of politics have been falling over one another to see who can publicly deride the banks with the most gratuitous overuse of combative language. 

Given all of this, as a communicator I was really interested to see how both parties would respond to these allegations.  Would they say that they would no longer accept donations from such corrupt institutions?  Would they apologise and pay back the money donated or at least give it to charity?

Of course not.

Again, from The Australian: ALP Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said donations were a matter for the “banks and other companies” making those donations. He said the ALP had consistently called for a royal commission into banks “without fear or favour”.  Treasurer Scott Morrison said: “Questions about donations to the Liberal Party should be directed to the Liberal Party.”

Good grief.  It’s the double-speak equivalent of ‘no comment’.

And politicians wonder why they’re not trusted?  It’s because almost every time they have an opportunity to demonstrate integrity and communicate honestly and appropriately, they fail.

What a free kick it would’ve been in the publicity stakes for one party to say: 

“We’re alarmed at this and of course will no longer be accepting donations from the Big Banks – particularly in light of the findings revealed so far in the Royal Commission.  We will donate the money provided last financial year to Charity X.”

Then, for the rest of the Royal Commission (at least up until the election) they could nail the other side for being hypocrites on this.  I reckon it’d play well with the voting public.

But of course that won’t happen.  The commercial realities of the parties show that memberships are hard to come by.  Donations are tight as companies protect their charitable dollar.  That money is probably already earmarked for a negative advertising blitz in the upcoming election campaign.

So the chance to ‘do the right thing’, so to speak, has again gone begging.  The politicians in their glass houses will continue to throw stones.

But, while they do, a promising communications play has come crashing down.