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Ethics and our national security

In the fallout from Australia's Banking Royal Commission, Australians are all poorer.

Yesterday a friend related that his bank had returned him $6000, along with a note that he had been ‘inadvertently’ charged for advice services he knew nothing about. Business models that impoverish us by whittling away large and small amounts from hardworking, time poor citizens, have become the norm.

But the greater poverty is a loss of faith in our institutions, and in those we entrust to guard our personal and national interests.

The banks are guilty, but so too is fractured building industry regulation, the political reluctance to protect our corruption watchdogs, and those who have failed to secure the major river system that feeds us. Led by politicians who promote self-regulatory systems that would leave an undergraduate psychology student giggling, the whittling away of integrity and ethics for the sake of greed affects the fundaments of our open society social contract.

Trust is our best weapon against authoritarian regimes that, right now, are using that very openness in order to weaken us. The good order of the Murray-Darling river basin is a matter of national security. So too is faith in parliament, strong media institutions that scrutinize oversight, a reliable banking system, and top-to-bottom social norms that recognize, promote, and reward integrity.

The alternative, a poverty of trust, will leave us begging for the good old days when banks were owned by the government.

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