Put the Big Four banks in public hands!

The Big Four banks — the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac — are together the most concentrated and profitable set of banks in the world. The Australian Big Four represent half of the eight most profitable banks on the entire globe.

Last year, the Big Four raised their cash profits to a combined total of $25.1 billion, compared to $24.1 billion the year before.

Thanks to deregulation during the 1980s until now, all the banks have increased their total share of the financial system from 50% to 90%. Of this, the big banks raised their share by two-thirds to 83%.

They even came out of the international financial crisis after 2008 stronger. Non-bank lenders such as Rams were crippled, while the Big Four were given the Rudd Labor government’s deposit guarantee. The cartel has proceeded to take over many opposition institutions and totally dominates all lending by financial entities in Australia.

Moreover, the major banks pocketed an additional $3.7 billion in profits in 2012 as a direct result of refusing to pass on recent falls in official Reserve Bank interest rates to home loan borrowers. The banks’ profit levels are running at around $310 million a month higher than they would have been if the cuts were passed on in full, the Australia Institute reports.

The banks are also ripping off their customers with extortionate account-keeping fees and interest on bank cards. They also keep their interest rates on savings accounts at a minimal level, way below the rate they charge for housing and other loans.

The big banks often argue that much of their exorbitant profits ends up going back to ordinary citizens through their ownership of shares. In reality, more than 90% of Australians do not own shares directly, and for superannuation holders, the yearly gain will be only $142. This compares with the average $1460 annual profit for every person in Australia that the Big Four banks make through their retail operations alone.

Yet, these same mega-banks are sacking workers, at the same time they pay their executives huge salaries and bonuses. In early 2012, the ANZ announced plans to cut 1000 jobs over six months “to protect profit margins.” Meanwhile, ANZ CEO Mike Smith pocketed a cool $10 million remuneration package.

All this amounts to a gigantic bank robbery in reverse against the Australian public.

And to add injury to insult, a 2010 Greenpeace

report showed that in the previous five years, Australia&'s big banks invested more than $5 billion in mining, transporting and burning coal, and only $78 million in renewable energy.

Coal is the country’s biggest contributor to climate change, but there are plans for new coal-fired power stations across Australia,underwritten by the big banks.

The global financial crisis allowed the banks which created the disaster to then profit from it! Working people’s money bailed out the bankers, and now it is basically back to business as usual for these bloodsuckers.

We need to call a halt to this gigantic bank robbery in reverse:

  • Put the Big Banks in public hands. Nationalise the Big Four, under workers's and community control.
  • Place the massive assets they possess under public ownership, to be used for the good of the community. These funds could be used to build public works, and to fund public health, education and transport, instead of new coal mines and Coal Seam Gas developments.
  • Banks in public hands, under community control, could provide essential services to ordinary people to meet human needs, not corporate profits. Executives would not be paid millions, jobs would stay, interest rates would not be manipulated for profit, fees could be cut and people would not face eviction by the banks, as they do now.

Is this so extreme? Just a few years ago, governments in the US and Europe gave trillions in public money to private banks to save the capitalist system from itself. Now. let’s instead nationalise the banks, under community control, to ensure our collective survival.

The banking cartel have had their day and landed us in disaster. It’s time for a new economic direction away from casino capitalism, and toward a system which puts people and planet before profits.