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Operation Bankwatch - J. Cronin

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Since 'Operation Bankwatch' was first published in April 1991, an intense battle of wills has taken place throughout Australia between the banks and the borrower. The whole question of banking has been brought to the forefront of Australian consciousness by the efforts of numerous individuals and groups who have either written books or taken to the lecture trail. Bankers have been put under great pressure to maintain credibility over this period of time as responsible lending institutions, but the host of corporate crashes & financial dealings over the past few years that have been publicly aired with all the resultant recriminations has more than highlighted great deficiencies in the management of Australia's money system and financial institutions.

A Federal Parliamentary enquiry into banking, a State Royal Commission into the conduct of a particular bank, have come and gone and little has actually changed, nor is it likely to. During all this time mounting numbers of bankruptcies and business failures being acted out daily in the cities as well as rural Australia.

Governments of all persuasions and politicians in particular absolve themselves entirely from such responsibility in these matters and to why our financial system and economy has collapsed and is not being regenerated and refuse to apply themselves to this vital situation. The truth is the present impasse has actually been created by the actions and neglect of our Federal Politicians over a long period of time with the blessing of acquiescing State Governments. The responsibility is now entirely with these very same politicians, our duly elected representative to see that changes are made to Australia's financial system to allow unpayable debt to be accommodated & written down in some way. This situation must be addressed as a matter of urgency, otherwise the casualty lists among industry and farmers will grow & grow, till Australia self destructs economically and socially.

Conversely among other considerations this nation's production capacity can only begin to regenerate with long term loans and low fixed term interest rates which would allow the small units to rebuild and flourish once again. This also would restore hope to young people rapidly growing disillusioned by what they perceive as grave financial injustices and ask whether the future holds anything for them at all. A conscious campaign to get changes has been stalled throughout Australia under the Bankwatch concept. Bankwatch committees have gone into bat endlessly over the past four years for a great number of people who want to fight to protect their way of life and hold on to their farms. Prime Minister Keating's, 'one Nation', commitment of 1992 to allow banks to claim taxation write-offs where restructuring of debts has been done off officially remains in place, but little used.

In the space of two years a great number of Bankwatch Action Groups of varying strengths have been set up across the nation as more and more people are asking why can't something be done? Bankwatch Leaders have travelled long distances in response to urgent situations more often by bus to promote the moral argument and show that something can really be done. Once the ordinary citizen begins to understand and take charge of their own financial affairs and begin to work within an action group structure, only then can Communities, districts and peoples be held together. Bank foreclosures, evictions and repossessions can then be contested and blunted. Debt write off is certainly happening to a degree and some districts have already been settled down. But much more has to be done before any worthwhile changes are ushered in.

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