Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Treasurer. With the NAB’s announcement today of a $4.2 billion profit, following the Commonwealth Bank’s huge $5.6 billion profit posted earlier this year, will the government help people take a step towards getting a fairer deal from the banks by supporting the Greens’ proposal to ban $2 ATM fees?
I thank the member for Melbourne for his question. There has been very substantial reform already in the area of ATM fees and I think that has made that sector much more competitive. So, no, I do not accept the policy that is being put forward, but I do accept that over time there has been a need for much more competition in this area. We are seeing the substantial results of that now and I am happy to send that to the member for him to have a look at. We are discussing what I regard as very important issues about the competitiveness of our banking system and what we can do to make it more competitive over time. The government has been focused on those issues.
The government is extremely focused on the reforms coming through the new Basel 3 proposals, which are being processed by the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Indeed, when the Prime Minister and I go to the G20 conference in Seoul those proposals will be a central part of our discussions. Our regulators have been involved in all of those discussions about how those reforms will apply in this country. We have put forward the view that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the Basel 3 framework. That is all very important for competition and stability in the Australian banking system, and that is one of the reasons I reject the call by the shadow Treasurer for an inquiry.
What our sector needs at the moment is certainty as we bed down the fundamental reforms in our banking system that go to the very core of the flow of credit in our economy. We all saw two years ago what can happen when international financial markets seize—our local system is threatened. So this is a very important reform that the government is bedding down. As I have said in previous answers today, we believe that we must always be alert to putting more competition into our banking system domestically, and I have run through some of the very important measures that we have put in place.
I do believe we will see the benefits of the new consumer laws that we have put through this parliament and in particular our proposals which will enable people to do something about unfair mortgage exit fees. This is a proposal that was put forward by the former Minister for Financial Services and is a very important reform. But there are many others. I went through all of those before. I welcome discussion and debate about this important question because it goes to the very core not only of our prosperity and the flow of credit in our economy but also of the living standards of all Australians.