Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2016


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

11:15 am

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

I will take that as a positive indication of where the government sits in relation to the report. I want to stress that these are good changes. This is a good set of laws. These are good reforms. What makes them such good reforms is that they are practical, they are sensible and they are achievable. I would urge the government to take the opportunity to look at where the committee got to with its recommendations, where it tried to follow the same kind of spirit and principle of what has been recommended here. Rather than look at some of the more drastic or politically contentious issues around banking, which I do believe exist, the committee looked at the practical steps that could be taken to reform the credit card market and make it a more competitive space. That is what I think this bill does.

There are a series of other practical, sensible measures that can be looked at. I note the point that Senator Whish-Wilson and the Greens have made here—and I hope I am not incorrect in saying that I heard Senator Di Natale talk about this matter earlier—and that is making sure that ATM fees are not excessive. I think there will be an opportunity at a future date to have a proper discussion about this. I also note that an important reform in the last government was allowing people to see the payments for themselves, to know what it was costing them. When you use your credit card at an ATM and that little button comes up saying that this transaction will cost you $2, this is actually the kind of step we should be looking at to empower and inform consumers. It is important to make consumers physically take the step of pressing the button so that they know what they are paying for that transaction.

The points that Senator Whish-Wilson makes are very important. Firstly, people are not really aware of what a transaction actually costs. So far, we tell them what it costs them; we do not tell them what it actually costs. That is an important point. Secondly, it is important to address markets that are not competitive. If I walk down the main street of Sydney, I can go to the CommBank, ANZ, National Australia Bank or Westpac. The big four banks are within 30 metres of each other. If I am in a remote Indigenous community where there is only the general store, I have no opportunity. There is no competition. Anecdotal evidence is that in fairly disadvantaged Indigenous communities it can cost up to $3.50 to make a transaction, whereas it would cost $2 to do the same transaction in George Street, a main street in Sydney. This is obviously of concern. There has to be a way of properly addressing this. The proposal that is being presented by the Greens at this point in time is a way to address it. I do believe that there is some merit in properly addressing this issue and having a further look at it at some point in the future.


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