House debates

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Questions without Notice

Bank Fees

2:28 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. The consumer watchdog Choice has today released a report demonstrating that consumers do not think it is fair that they are slugged for balance inquiries at ATMs. Does the Treasurer agree that people should not be charged for simply finding out how much money is in their accounts? If so, will the government guarantee that it will outlaw charges for onscreen balance inquiries at all ATMs once the current review of ATMs fees is complete in June?

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Melbourne for his very important question. I think that he, like everyone on this side of the House, is absolutely intent on making sure, for families and businesses, that we have the most competitive banking system we can get—a system that delivers the best value to Australian families and businesses in this country.

Can I say that we do look forward to working with the cross-benchers and the minor parties both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate in the passage of our very important reforms to the banking system to make it much more competitive. To that end I met with the consumer group Choice this morning to discuss their reaction to a number of the very positive proposals that we are progressing. An example is the abolition of mortgage exit fees on new home loans—a very important reform—so that if people are unhappy with their banks they can go down the road.

But of course those opposite are intent on opposing that. They are standing up for mortgage exit fees on new home loans as high as $7,000. That is the stance they have. We are looking forward to working with Choice and other community organisations and all the members from this side of the House on making sure that we do everything we can to progress account portability.

This is very difficult and it is the case that no country in the world has yet achieved full account portability. But we have got Bernie Fraser working on this task and he will come back to the government with a report on that. This is a very important part of our financial system. Any changes have to be made in a methodical and careful way. So we do look forward to the report from Bernie Fraser. We also have the Treasury working with the Reserve Bank when it comes to ATM fees and charges and the question about account inquiries. Those two bodies will take that into account in their current deliberations. For our part, on this side of the House we are absolutely committed to a competitive banking system, unlike those opposite who just stand for high mortgage exit fees.