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    WHEN WILL MALCOLM TURNBULL ACT TO PROTECT CREDIT CARD CUSTOMERS?

    The banking sector’s self-governing body has found that banks do not have the best interests of credit card customers at heart when pushing credit limit increases or issuing new credit cards.

    The Code Compliance Monitoring Committee report found that banks are not inquiring about customers particular circumstances, financial situations or ability to pay back credit balances when offering credit limit increases or issuing new cards.

    These findings come as banking customers in Australia are being slugged a staggering $5.5 billion in interest charges a year.

    At the same time, Malcolm Turnbull is claiming that his house of reps committee ‘big fix’ to all the issues in the banking sector is holding the banks to account, but the evidence shows a very different picture.

    For way too long banking customers have been ripped off when it comes to credit cards.

    Hidden charging, high interest rates, high annual fees, expensive rewards programs, exorbitant late payment fees and inappropriate lending practices have resulted in customers being slugged unfairly whilst the banks make millions in credit card profits.

    Report after report is finding that the banks do not have the best interests of customers at heart but the Prime Minister continues to defend the banks instead of showing leadership and delivering the credit card reforms that the Government promised almost a year ago.

    TUESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2017

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services. 

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    TURNBULL GOVERNMENT NOT SERIOUS ABOUT CREDIT CARD REFORMS

    The Australian Bankers’ Association’s (ABA) Code of Banking Practice reviewer has revealed that Malcolm Turnbull is the biggest road block to credit card reform because he has still refused to act and legislate to protect consumers with credit cards.

    Whilst the Prime Minister was very quick to take credit for ANZ's decision to lower interests rates on some credit cards he's not so quick to deliver the credit card reforms he is actually responsible for.

    Some 15 months after a Senate committee inquiry into credit cards made important recommendations to the Turnbull Government on how to improve customer outcomes the overwhelming majority have not been delivered.

    Some 10 months after the Government released their own response to the Senate's report, including identifying priority areas for reform, not one of these has been delivered.

    And today Phil Khoury says in his report that it is likely to be at least 18 months before any draft credit card reform legislation is ready, and further that;

    “Competing priorities for Treasury and drafting resources and for Parliamentary time could mean that legislation will not be introduced into Parliament during the life of this Parliament.” Phil Khoury, Independent Review – Code of Banking Practice, page 72.

    Both the Senate report and the Government’s response include important reforms to credit cards which would improve competition and consumer protections, improve disclosures to customers on fees and charges, tighten responsible lending obligations, and ban unfair interest charges.

    For way too long banking customers have been ripped off when it comes to credit cards. Hidden charging, high interest rates, high annual fees, expensive rewards programs, exorbitant late payment fees and inappropriate lending practices have resulted in customers being slugged unfairly whilst the banks make millions in credit card profits.

    Instead of taking credit for something he is not responsible for, how about the Prime Minister actually do something constructive and instruct his Ministers to get on with delivering the credit card reforms that the Government promised almost a year ago.

    The banks have made it clear that they are reluctant to reform their credit card products until legislation is passed, so Malcolm Turnbull needs to get on and do his job instead of protecting the banks.

    MONDAY 20 FEBRUARY, 2017

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    MUCH MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO STOP CREDIT CARD RIP-OFFS

    Whilst Labor welcomes ANZ's decision to cut interest rates on two of its low rate credit cards and urges other banks to follow the decision, much more needs to be done by the banks to stop ripping credit card customers off with unfair fees and other hidden costs.

    With the cash rate at an all-time low banks have benefited for far too long from stubbornly high interest rates on credit cards with banking customers being slugged a staggering $5.5 billion in interest charges a year.

    There is no doubt that credit card fees and charges have been very lucrative for the banks and its well past time that credit card customers are given a fair go from the highly profitable credit card industry.

    For example credit card fees have been increasing at a much faster rate than any other bank fee and now make up over one-third of all of the fees banks collect from households every year with $1.5 billion paid in annual credit card fees alone.

    With the average credit card holder in Australia owing $4,262 on their card and with $734 paid in interest per year, every increase in fees, charges and hidden costs hits households hard - particularly low and middle income households.

    It's time all of the banks looked at how they provide credit cards to their customers and not just interest rates.

    Banks should look seriously at the annual fees charged, cash advance fees, late payment fees, and other products like credit protection insurance and the reward program rip-offs.

    Labor understands that credit cards provide Australians with flexibility when it comes to managing their finances but Labor also believes that banks should ensure that the conditions attached to these products are fair and reasonable and not simply used as a way for the banks to make more money out of their customers.

    MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2017

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services. 

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    LABOR CONGRATULATES NEW CEO OF AUSTRALIAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION

    Labor congratulates Anna Bligh on her appointment as the new CEO of the Australian Bankers Association and hopes that she will be able to lead the cultural and system changes required by the banking sector.

    The ABA, the bank’s advocacy arm, can't solve the litany of problems within the banking industry with one bank-funded appointment and a slick PR campaign.

    Labor’s focus has always been on seeking justice for the thousands of Australians who have been the victims of banking malpractice and driving long term systemic change through the work of a royal Commission.

    A Royal Commission is the only way to shine a light on the misconduct and cultural issues in the banks that have led to thousands of Australians, including small businesses and farmers, being ripped off or treated badly by them.

    Without a royal commission, the rorts and rip-offs will continue - it’s as simple as that.

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services. 

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    ZED BETRAYS CANBERRA

    Zed Seselja has voted in support of a Senate motion today that endorses “decentralisation” of government departments by moving them out of Canberra, and other capital cities, to regional towns.

    Today when given the opportunity to stand up for Canberra and Canberra jobs, he sat and voted with all of his Liberal/National colleagues to support the relocation of public service jobs out of the ACT and specifically to endorse the move of the APVMA, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other agencies out of Canberra.

    “To be a Senator for the ACT and vote to remove jobs from Canberra and support further decentralisation of the public service is absolutely outrageous and simply beggars belief,” Senator Gallagher said.

    “The motion moved by Government members today was anti-Canberra. Zed Seselja knew this and he voted for it anyway.

    “I have never seen an ACT politician so blatantly vote against our community’s interests. We should never forget this appalling act of betrayal by Zed Seselja and he should be held to account for it.”

    “Former Senator Gary Humphries, who Zed Seselja knocked off in a bitter preselection to get into the Senate, would cross the floor when it came to standing up for Canberra but today we all saw that Zed’s not up to that and his own interests will always come before that of Canberra’s,” Senator Gallagher concluded.

    THURSDAY 16 FEBRUARY, 2017

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    LABOR WILL RESTORE BALANCE FOR SMALL BUSINESS WITH ACCESS TO JUSTICE REFORMS

    Labor will introduce legislation into the Senate today that will help small businesses take cases of anti-competitive behaviour to court.

    Currently, small businesses are less likely to take up private litigation against anti-competitive behaviour.

    This is because big businesses have deep pockets and armies of lawyers, so the risk of small businesses being overwhelmed and having to pay the big businesses’ legal fees is a significant obstacle.

    The Turnbull Government has refused to address this inequity despite the Productivity Commission and the Government’s own Competition Review saying that small businesses are disadvantaged in the court process.

    Labor’s Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment (Small Business Access to Justice) Bill 2017 will restore the balance by letting a small business request a ‘no adverse costs order’ early in a court case.

    If the judge decides that the case has merit, the small business will not have to pay the big business’ legal costs.

    Labor’s smart legislation will also enable the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to provide professional assistance as to whether the ‘no adverse costs order’ is likely to be successful. This is in keeping with the Ombudsman’s current dispute resolution mandate and will help to filter vexatious litigants from the process.

    Because Labor is the party of competition policy, our access to justice reforms are based on evidence of what works, unlike the populism relied on by the Turnbull-Joyce government.

    We understand that good competition law protects the competitive process, not competitors.

    This is why Labor does not support the Turnbull Government’s effects test. Their policy has very little evidentiary support and will not achieve greater competitive balance between small and big businesses.

    Instead it will cripple legitimate competition, depress innovation, deter investment and frighten companies from lowering prices on groceries, particularly in regional and remote areas.

    Labor is throwing the Prime Minister a lifeline with our access to justice legislation.

    With it he has the chance to properly support small business, ditch Barnaby Joyce’s ill-thought through effects test and back in Labor’s policy which will provide access to justice for thousands of small businesses around Australia.

    THURSDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2017

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

    This is a joint release with Labor's Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh MP.

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    IT’S TIME FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO START AGAIN AND CONSULT PROPERLY ON AN OBJECTIVE OF SUPER

    Labor has tabled a dissenting report on the Senate Inquiry into the government’s proposed objective of superannuation and is calling on the minister to go back to the drawing board and properly consult with the sector.

    Labor supports the recommendation of the Murray Financial System Inquiry to legislate an objective of superannuation but it is crucial that we do it properly and achieve an objective with broad political and stakeholder support.

    The recent Senate Committee Inquiry has shown that there is overwhelming opposition to the government’s current proposed objective.

    Key stakeholders including the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, Industry Super Australia, the Financial Services Council, the Institute of Public Affairs and the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia criticised the government’s lack of consultation during the inquiry and raised concerns with the objective as it is currently proposed.

    The minister needs to withdraw this Bill, undertake genuine and detailed consultation with the industry stakeholders and work constructively with Labor to satisfy the FSI recommendation to reach broad political agreement for the objective.

    Labor supports legislating an objective for super and we are ready to work constructively with the government to achieve this goal.

    WEDNESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2017

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

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    NEW LAWS TO PROTECT CONSUMERS IN PLACE BUT NOW THE GOVERNMENT MUST FOCUS ON IMPLEMENTATION

    Labor welcomes important new laws to protect consumers by improving the educational, professional and ethical standards of financial advisers and by reducing commissions for life insurance products which passed the Senate today.

    Labor strongly supports laws which boost consumer protections within the financial services industry and ensure that people receive professional and ethical advice from their financial advisers.

    “With these laws now in place, the onus is on the Turnbull Government to ensure the smooth implementation of the reforms. With a reasonable transition timeframe in place there is simply no excuse for any delays or failures by this Government,” Senator Gallagher said.

    The reforms include a new statutory oversight body that will design the new training standards to be in place by mid-2017.

    “Critical to the success of the new laws will be the work undertaken by the new oversight body and the leadership provided by the inaugural appointments to that body,” Senator Gallagher said.

    Important changes to better protect consumers by reducing commissions for advisers for selling life insurance products also passed the Senate today.

    “After years of scandals, rip-offs, unethical and in some cases illegal conduct its essential that laws are put in place that put the interests of consumers front and centre.

    “It’s for that reason that Labor has supported these laws but we know that more needs to be done to protect consumers from the rip-off’s and scandals that the financial services industry has become known for in recent years.

    “Labor will continue to fight for a royal commission because we know it is the only way to shine a light on the misconduct and cultural issues in the banks that have led to thousands of Australians being ripped off or treated unfairly by them.

    “The success or otherwise of these new laws rests entirely with the Government and Labor will be monitoring this closely,” Senator Gallagher concluded.

    THURSDAY, 09 FEBRUARY 2017

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

    This is a joint release with Senator Chris Ketter, Chair of the Senate Economics References Committee.

     

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    YET ANOTHER REPORT SLAMS UNFAIR BANKS

    A damning investigation by the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has found that the big banks have been unfair in their dealings with small and medium businesses in loan contracts and are refusing to change their ways. 

    “Year after year, inquiry after inquiry, report after report we see evidence of banks letting down their customers and causing hardship to businesses without ever changing their ways,” Senator Gallagher said.

    Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has joined the chorus of Australians who are rightly “fed up” with their treatment by the banks and want to see real change.

    “We've had a look at 17 inquiries over quite a number of years with the banks saying 'yeah, yeah, yeah, we're going to change' and then they don't. And then they find a way to have another inquiry and kick the can down the road to find another reason why they won't change."

    "I think though what we've got is a banking industry in Australia, particularly the big four banks, that believe for whatever reason that they can continue with business as usual and they don't have to change."

    – Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell AO (ABC News, 3 February, 2017)

    "The time has come for Malcolm Turnbull to stop protecting the banks and accept that a royal commission into the banks is the only way to get the systemic and permanent change required within Australia's banking industry. 

    “Small businesses are the engine room of the Australian economy and as loyal and long term customers they deserve to be treated fairly by the banks. But this report shows that yet again the banks are failing to meet this minimum standard. 

    “Labor will continue to fight for a royal commission because we know it is the only way to shine a light on the misconduct and cultural issues in the banks that have led to thousands of Australians, including small businesses, being ripped off or treated unfairly by them,” Senator Gallagher concluded.

    FRIDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2017

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

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    TURNBULL SHOULD MAKE A BANKS ROYAL COMMISSION RESOLUTION

    Labor is calling on Malcolm Turnbull to commit to an important new year’s resolution and establish a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sector.

    Australians want to see leadership from their Prime Minister which has been severely lacking since Malcolm Turnbull took office over a year ago.

    Establishing a Royal Commission is the best way for the Prime Minister to show he is on the side of Australians instead of his mates at the big end of town.

    Those who have been ripped off by their bank or left with nothing as a result of bad financial advice have continued to see their interests ignored by a weak Prime Minister who is more interested in protecting the banks than the interests of everyday Australians.

    Even Malcolm Turnbull’s own backbench knows that a Royal Commission is the right course of action to shine a light on the wrongdoing in the financial services sector.

    Malcolm Turnbull has tried every option under the sun to avoid a Royal Commission but none of them will provide a systematic look into what structural and cultural changes need to occur in the banking and financial services sector to prevent further rip offs in the future.

    Labor will continue to fight for a Royal Commission throughout 2017 and will be leading a Senate Inquiry into consumer rip offs which will begin hearings in March 2017.

    If Malcolm Turnbull won’t stand up for Australians then Labor will because we will always put people first.

    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services

     

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