Monday, 19 June 2017
Major Bank Levy Bill 2017, Treasury Laws Amendment (Major Bank Levy) Bill 2017; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Major Bank Levy Bill 2017 and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Major Bank Levy) Bill 2017, which seeks to impose a 0.6 per cent levy on five banks which have more than $100 billion in liabilities. I intend to support this bill, and I hope the Liberal government will put to good use the $6.2 billion in revenue this levy is expected to raise over the forward estimates. The Liberals may think this levy shows that they are suddenly being tough with the banks. The Treasurer might even think he can bash the banks all the way from here to the next election. But I have news for him: nobody is buying the act, absolutely nobody. Nobody thinks the Liberal Party are committed to helping the battlers, because taxing a group like the big banks is never going to be a hard sell.
There is a big difference between sticking it up the bankers and sticking it up the battlers—the battlers who have had their life savings ripped away from them thanks to dodgy financial advice; the battlers who are sick and dying trying to claim on the insurance they hold with the big banks and being turned away at the door due to a technicality; the battlers who were led to put their money into dodgy investments because they trusted their financial planner to do the right and responsible thing. They trusted their bank, and that trust was broken. Tens of thousands of Aussies have had their lives ruined by these banks—and the Liberal Party thinks the problem is that they do not pay enough tax!
I am here to tell the Liberal Party that the problem is cultural. I will say it again: the problem is cultural. For decades, the banks thought it was okay to take advantage of the ordinary Australian, and, like a naughty child with slack parents, they have gotten away with it. The banks have been treating the government as a doormat, and the Liberal government has rolled over and let them.
This tax on the banks is an attempt by the government to prove they really are in control, but the banks know that if their tantrum is big enough and loud enough the Liberal government will eventually cave. We need a banking sector that is strong, not a banking sector that is able to strongarm a government. The banks reckon this is the fault of a few bad apples. Let me tell you, I have worked with a few bad apples in my time. Here is what you do with a bad apple: you throw it out, because it is rotten to the core. You do not give it a giant bonus cheque.
Only a royal commission will go to the core of the problem in the banking and financial sector. A royal commission will not make the banking sector weaker. What weakens the banking sector is the way the big banks are treating their customers. They have done it to themselves. Every scandal weakens their reputation; it wrecks their reputation. A royal commission will trigger an overhaul of the banking and financial sector culture, which will be the first step to restoring the banks' reputation, let alone going a little way to giving the public out there some trust back of our banking sector.
A royal commission will target the banks attitude of profit before people at all costs. Ideally, I would love to see a change in the way banks do business, to a focus on supporting the community. Banks are an important institution in the lives of Australians, and to approach customers with an attitude of, 'What can we do to help you?' rather than, 'How can I profit from you?' would go a long way to restoring the banks' reputation. I challenge the banks to take a people-first approach. When a customer comes to claim insurance, the banks should do everything possible to ensure that person is paid out to help support that person through the difficult times. And, if it is not too much to ask, doing so in a timely manner would be even better. People and businesses should not have to fight tooth and nail for what is owed to them, and if the bank cannot find even a little bit of compassion in their hearts and see people as people rather than the dollar signs that they see in them, let me remind them of good old-fashioned customer service. Any customer driven business owner would be able to tell you the value of customer service. It is a well-known principle: if you look after your customers, your customers will look after you. Not only will your customers look after you; they will stay with you for a lifetime.