THE federal treasurer has challenged at least one of Australia’s big four banks to break ranks and declare that they will not pass a new levy onto customers.
Scott Morrison accused Westpac, NAB, ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank of “having a lend of people” over the $6.2 billion, four-year Budget measure.
They can afford to wear the cost and their threats to charge customers extra were an insult, he said today.
“The first bank to break ranks and say ‘no, we’re not going to insult the Australian people, we’re going to do the right thing by the Australian people’, I think they will get a lot of support from Australian customers,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“And if the other banks don’t want to follow them, then I’d be following the bank that is the first to move.”
KATTER: BANKS SQUEALING ‘LIKE STUCK PIGS’
Federal crossbench MP Bob Katter believes the big five bank’s criticism of having to sign a confidentiality agreement over their new levy is a “triumph of hypocrisy”.
The Australian Bankers’ Association has hit out at Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision ahead of the release of the draft bank tax legislation.
“A bad tax has now become a secret tax,” the association’s chief Anna Bligh said.
“The government is going to extraordinary lengths to keep this tax hidden from the people who will be most affected by it and from the public.”
But Mr Katter slammed the banks response, citing repeated reports to his office of farmers, small business people and every day Australians being forced to sign confidentiality agreements, protecting the banks.
“What they are screaming about here is exactly what they have been imposing in every single one of their threatened foreclosures in Australia. Every single bank has been doing it,” he said in a statement today.
“Now they have the hide, when their own conditions are applied to themselves — to squeal like stuck pigs. Talk about a triumph in hypocrisy.”
Mr Morrison today told reporters “it’s not an irregular practice”.
“These are sensitive matters,” the Treasurer said.
“We are respecting their confidentiality as well”.
WATCHDOG ASSEMBLES BANK SURVEILLANCE SQUAD
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chief Rod Sims said he has assembled a surveillance squad of a dozen agents to work out how the banks calculate fees and charges on home mortgages.
“We don’t have the power to stop the banks doing anything but I think the fact we’re looking and have an obligation to report publicly will have an effect on their behaviour,” Mr Sims told ABC radio today.
“We’ll be able to see what they’re doing because we’ll have access to their confidential information.”
The ACCC will be given access to emails, internal reports and other documents, and also have the power to hold compulsory hearings under oath.
Mr Sims said only time will tell whether the banks actually do pass on the levy to customers, despite warnings from the prime minister and treasurer not to.
While it is no substitute for a royal commission, Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers hopes the ACCC can use everything in its power to hold the banks to account.
“To the extent that they can help people get to the bottom of issues around mortgage pricing, interest rate pass-through, that’s a good thing,” he told Sky News.
WELFARE SECTOR BACKS BANK TAX
As the big five rally against the new $6.2 billion levy over four years, the welfare sector has thrown its weight behind it.
Economists have queried whether the levy could lead to the banks lifting interest rates and fees, disproportionately making it harder for low-income families to buy a home.
But Australian Council of Social Service chief Dr Cassandra Goldie told AAP new revenue sources were needed.
“Without this, the burden will fall on people with the lowest incomes through social security payment and service cuts,” she said.
“A well-designed levy on banks that takes account of their privileged position in financial services and the higher profits that result is a fair and sensible way to raise public revenue.”
She said transaction taxes operating overseas had been found to be regressive but the government’s proposal was different.
However, she noted the tax needed to be “carefully designed and targeted”.
Mr Morrison says a similar tax introduced in the UK was absorbed by banks and not passed on.
He says the competition watchdog will keep pressure on the banks as the levy is introduced this year.
Labor says it is open to extending the levy to the biggest foreign banks — an idea raised by the Nick Xenophon Team.
Online Source: news.com.au