A unique handwritten copy by Les Murray

  • 2422
  • Literature:
  • Collectibles
  • Medium:
  • Books, Maps & Manuscripts
  • Circa:
  • Poetry Books
  • Notes:
  • Australia’s recent ‘Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry’ was particularly scathing of the conduct of Australia’s big four banks. In the unseemly pursuit of ‘profits at any cost’ each bank had its own take on ‘world’s worst banking practices’ which were expertly designed to ‘swindle’ their customers and so protect their proud records of perpetual growth. Of course, the jockeying for position in a four-horse group one race was always bound to lead to unconscionable conduct when the announcement of each year’s record profits also fattened the pay-packets of senior bank management. When the last bank shuts up shop it usually sounds the death knell for a country town but, of course this holds little concern for the city-slickers of senior bank management looking solely for fiscal returns. So, while the social fabric of Australia was being torn up chasing bare-faced profits everyone, except the government regulators, had some experience of the banks’ malfeasance as they pared back once fundamental banking services while quietly slipping in ‘user pays’ for what little remained. These days you spend more time going around in circles communicating with a ‘virtual assistant’ who has largely replaced the human interface. Good luck finding a teller even if you are fortunate enough to locate a bank branch in what now passes as the modern banking world. Australia supposedly dodged a bullet during the ‘Global Financial Crisis’, when its private banks were saved from a ‘run’ by an ‘Australian Government Deposit Guarantee’. This was effectively underwritten by all Australians, so it was particularly galling that in gratitude the banks paid us back in spades by charging heavy-handed fees and commissions which the Royal Commission revealed were laid on to all and sundry, but especially the vulnerable and on occasions the dead. This month Smalls Auctions offers a unique ‘handwritten’ and ‘signed’ poem titled ‘the Rollovers’ by Les Murray Australia’s unofficial ‘Poet Laureate.’ His prescient bush ballad was written in the 90s and glimpsed what was to come. It turns the tables on the bankers by reimagining the not unfamiliar plight of an Australian farmer being marched off his farm by the sheriffs ‘stealing’ his livelihood for the ‘shylocks.’ It reads: Some of us primary producers, us farmers and authors are going round to watch them evict a banker. It’ll be sad. I hate it when the toddlers and wives are out beside the fence, crying, and the big kids wear that thousand-yard stare common in all refugees. Seeing home desecrated as you lose it can do that to you. There’s the ute piled high with clothes and old debentures. There’s the faithful VDU, shot dead, still on its lead. This fellow’s dad and grandad were bankers before him, they sweated through the old hard inspections, had years of brimming foreclosure, but here it all ends. He’d lent three quarters and only asked for a short extension. Six months. But you have to Line the drawers somewhere. You have to be kind to be cruel. It’s Sydney or the cash these times. Who buys the Legend of the Bank any more? The laconic teller, the salt-of-the-earth branch accountant it’s all an Owned Boys story. Now they reckon he’s grabbed a gun and an old coin sieve and holed up in the vault, screaming about his years of work, his identity. Queer talk from a bank-johnny! We're catching flak, too, from a mob of his mates, inbred under-manager types, here to back him up. Troublemakers, land-despoiling white trash. It’ll do them no good. Their turn is coming. They’ll be rationalised themselves, made adapt to a multinational society. There’s no room in that for privileged traditional ways of life. No land rights for bankers. A humbling offering which probably belongs on the office wall of one of Australia’s Banking CEOs.

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May 7, 2023 12:00 PM AEST
Sydney, Australia

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