Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2016


Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015; In Committee

11:07 am

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have one or two questions that I want to ask at this stage. But before doing so I did want to draw some attention to the amendments that are being proposed by Senator Whish-Wilson. I want to begin by saying that the intent of these amendments is something that, broadly, most people support—that is, the principle behind the idea that you do not want people being ripped off by unfair ATM fees. I think that is a very good principle.

There is a real issue about competition within the market in this space. In particular, if I walk down the main street of Sydney to use an ATM, I can find ATMs that are around $2 or even cheaper. If I go to outback communities—and there was some talk that this has come up in some of the more remote Indigenous communities—it can be up to $3.50 for people to be able to use an ATM. You end up with a situation where people who are simply checking their balance on two or three occasions will end up suddenly spending $10, $12, $15 of their revenue just checking and waiting for payments to come in. These things add up very quickly, so there is something worthwhile in the broader principle of what you are saying.

There are a couple of reasons why the opposition did not support this in the House. As I am sure everyone here is well aware, these are the identical amendments that were introduced by Mr Bandt in the other place. The main reason was that there was no notice of major regulatory change or its significant impact on business. The amendments have the effect of regulating ATM fees. This is a completely different direction to the main thrust of this bill, which deals with credit card payment surcharges. There was an entire, lengthy process that we went through as a Senate through the Senate Economics References Committee—and I want to commend Senator Whish-Wilson on the incredible amount of work he has done on that committee. There would have been a much better and more appropriate opportunity to have thoroughly explored some of these ideas as part of that committee process.

Again, the points you are making are broadly, at a principal level, valid. But I believe there was a better way of doing this to bring industry on board and to have the debate and the discussion. The way that it should have been done was through the process that the Senate did establish, which was our committee process. I think it is unfortunate that we did not have the opportunity to really explore some of this in depth through that process. I do feel that there is, dare I say it, an element of grandstanding going on here with some of these amendments. But I would never be so outrageous as to accuse a senator of that!

The thrust of this bill deals with another matter, which is credit card surcharging. I note, Minister, that you are acting in the capacity at the moment, so this is not your bill per se. It is not a matter that you have directly been involved in, having a large portfolio like education, so I completely understand that you may or may not be able to answer some of this. But I did want to ask if, in the drafting of this legislation, the department did have an opportunity to look at, or take on board, any of the recommendations from the Senate inquiry into credit card use.


No comments