Australia's Government Is Shocked by Bank Wrongdoing. Shocked.

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(Bloomberg) -- After being dragged kicking and screaming to hold an inquiry into misconduct in Australia’s financial industry, the government is now jumping aboard the bank-bashing bandwagon as public anger at evidence of wrongdoing escalates.

Among the more shocking revelations this week, the inquiry heard AMP Ltd. deliberately misled regulators over charging customers for services they didn’t receive, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia collected fees from dead people, in one case for more than a decade. AMP Chief Executive Officer Craig Meller today become the inquiry’s first scalp, saying he would step down immediately.

Treasurer Scott Morrison, who in 2016 called the Labor opposition’s push for the inquiry a “populist whinge,” on Friday decried the “very disturbing and indeed shocking revelations” as he announced tougher penalties for corporate crimes, including 10-year prison sentences.

“The punishment must always fit the crime,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne. “And we must not forget these are not victimless crimes.”

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said his previous opposition to the inquiry was “naive” and “wrong,” and raised the prospect banks be broken up.

“I have apologized for being so naive to have swallowed their line of ‘we are good corporate citizens,”’ Joyce told Fairfax Media. “Maybe they should now as well.”

That’s quite a change of heart, but one look at the government’s poor polling shows why it’s so keen to ride the wave of public anger.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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