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Shaking faith: the Taylor and Westpac scandals

  • 04 December 2019


The current controversies engulfing Westpac and the Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction have a number of things in common: judgement, or the lack thereof; a perceived difficulty in recognising right from wrong; and inflicting adverse effects on their respective institutions.

In light of the recent banking royal commission and the government's work in developing a plethora of transparency and integrity measures, it beggars belief how Brian Hartzer and Angus Taylor could bring upon themselves and their respective institutions so much unwanted publicity.

Paul Kelly, editor-at-large for the Australian, was particularly savage regarding Westpac and its former CEO: 'The Westpac money-laundering scandal, compounded by the initial efforts of its leadership to cling to office and deny accountability, further shatters trust in financial elites. It exposes their moral bankruptcy, self-interested complacency and flawed management.'

Kelly's assessment is as true as it is harsh. But he, like many Australians, is simply fed up with the lack of any moral compass being displayed by some of our business and political leaders.

The Guardian's political editor, Katharine Murphy, was also clear that Angus Taylor should have stepped aside once the police were called in to investigate the case of an altered city council document.

There is no suggestion that Taylor himself doctored the document, but his letter to Sydney Mayor Clover Moore and the doctored financial account was provided to media with what must be assumed as having the intention of causing her political and reputational harm. As Murphy correctly wrote: 'Taylor vacating his post temporarily should have happened without fuss, just because it's the right thing to do.'

The current scandal engulfing the minister is not his first foray into controversy. Taylor found himself embroiled in controversy earlier this year over his dealings with Jam Land, a company currently under investigation for illegal land-clearing.


"At a time when public institutions are suffering from trust deficits, why do people in high office continue to get it so wrong?"


If Hartzer and Taylor could have their time again, you would expect they would have acted differently. Hartzer would have focused on Westpac's compliance culture, especially after his organisation was said to have been briefed years earlier on the child exploitation risks as a consequence of Westpac's compliance breaches. Taylor would have thought twice about publicly attacking his ideological opponent, Moore, without doing a basic double-check of the facts.

At a time when public institutions are suffering from trust deficits, why do people in