Nassim Khadem Reporter Financial Review BRW
Nassim covers the accounting and tax rounds for BRW 26 February 2013
Since the demise of the Democrats there hasn’t been a political party that’s been able to “keep the bastards honest” so to speak. The Bank Reform Party wants to change that.
The Greens should be recognised for attracting more than 1.6 million votes in the Senate and a seat in every state at the 2010 federal election – a first for any Australian minor party.
But unlike the Democrats, who were seen as ideologically somewhere in the middle of the Labor and Liberal parties, the Greens are perceived to be on the far left with strong socialist policies.
Former corporate spin doctor and political media adviser Adrian Bradley, who is running for a NSW Senate seat at this year’s federal election with the newly formed party hopes his party may become the modern-day version of the Democrats.
He says he wants to take on the “bank, supermarket and fuel cartels” and may even run candidates in seats held by Treasurer Wayne Swan and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey just to cause a stir. “It’s an option that will be examined,” he told BRW. “Our main thrust is in the Senate, but we will be looking at some house seats for sure.
“Part of this is about getting noticed. I am unashamed about that. We are trying to get a job with Australian people.”
After spending more than two-and-a-half years talking up the banks – Bradley claims, on his LinkedIn page, he helped Bankwest “achieve the best reputation of any major bank in Western Australia” – he now wants to shed some light on why the big four banks are dodgy.
He’s got the 500 signatures needed to register the party, and hopes he can make the big four banks “fairer” and stop them from “gouging” customers.
Bradley says the party is far from being just a gimmick. “Now that we are registered we are no longer just a good idea,” he says. “We are going to appear on ballot papers in every state.”
Despite what its name suggests, the Bank Reform Party isn’t just about reforming the banks.
As well as injecting more competition into the banking sector, Bradley says the party wants to tackle is the dominance of supermarket retailers and oil companies. He also says there’s a need for a “fair and affordable legal system”, and “watchdogs with real teeth”.
“We need to have an open a dialogue about what kind of a society we want,” he says. “We have supermarkets and banks operating like cartels ... These institutions have massive responsibility to the Australian people. And we gave them market power. Our regulators enabled this. They are business facilitators, they aren’t regulators.”
He’s also got his sights set on authorities like the Australian Taxation Office, which he says is heavy-handed in the way it treats small business, and needs to be more “human”.
Bradley is based in Perth but has spent most of his working life in Sydney as a spin doctor and journalist. He currently runs a small business - a consultancy called And An A, servicing the mining and engineering sectors.
He says while he always admired Don Chipp and his mantra of keeping the bastards honest, he learnt a great deal from the Democrats party’s demise. “They lost their way and became a irrelevant bunch of yoghurt eaters,” he says. “The Senate is not a rubber stamp. It’s a house of review. I think it’s a great danger if the government had the balance of power in the Senate. The last time we saw that was under [former Prime Minister John] Howard.”
The Bank Reform Party was previously aligned with “UnhappyBanking”, a group which started off the back of complaints from hundreds of angry ex-Bankwest customers.
But Bradley has now distanced himself from that group. “We can’t be aligned with bank victims,” he says. “While we are very sympathetic, this party is for all Australians.”
Bradley says the party is still counting on support from disgruntled customers and mortgage belt voters and intends to introduce legislation preventing banks “gouging” on interest rates by forcing them to set interest rates in line with those set by the Reserve Bank.
He also wants to bring in tougher laws against anti-predatory lending, boost transparency on fees and charges, legislate a cap on “greedy bank bonuses” and executive salaries and dismantle the four pillars policy in order to force greater competition. He says Australia’s big four have become “arrogant” and “get away with whatever they want”.
Bradley will no doubt be able to point to the tricks that banks sometimes play, having headed BankWest/HBOS PR between 2008 and 2011 (he’s since had a falling out with BankWest and is trying to sue them for unfair dismissal).
He’s also worked in PR roles for Telstra giving “strategic communications advice to CEOs at Telstra” and advising boards and executives on “a range of external issues impacting corporate reputation”.
Bradley is also familiar with the political game having worked as a media spokesman and speechwriter for former Labor NSW transport services minister Michael Costa for most of 2004.
His early career was in journalism. He graduated with an arts degree from the University of Western Australia in 1983 and in 1985 started reporting for Canning Melville Times, a local community newspaper in Perth. In 1988 he landed a job as an investigative reporter for the Melbourne Herald and later went on to work for local and international media outlets including Four Corners, The Australian, the Financial Times, Channel Seven and the Financial Post (Toronto).
Bradley’s skills, as listed on LinkedIn, include “reputation management” and “issues management” – experience that no doubt will come in handy in the political game.