GOVERNMENT DELAYS PAY DAY LOAN REFORMS UNTIL 2020

The Turnbull Government has announced further delays to changes to pay day loans that were recommended over year ago, leaving vulnerable Australians to continue getting ripped off on loans that often plunge them further into debt.

At the same time that the Minister for Small Business was trumpeting the Government’s year old promise to reform current laws saying the legislation is “something to look out for” he also announced that any reforms would have a further 12 month commencement delay after passage through the Parliament. 

Labor has been calling for the legislation to come forward for more than a year now but all we have seen is inaction and empty rhetoric from the Turnbull Government on small amount credit contracts.

If this Government was serious about protecting consumers from dodgy lenders and unfair consumer leases it would have produced legislation as a matter of urgency following expert recommendations handed to the Government more than 18 months ago.

Malcolm Turnbull and his Government just can’t be taken seriously on protecting vulnerable consumers, whether it be overdue changes to credit card laws or small amount credit contracts.

The Prime Minister has had 15 sitting weeks to introduce the legislation over the past 11 months, but has failed to deliver on his Government’s own promise.

Next week provides another opportunity for the Minister to introduce small amounts credit contract legislation to the Parliament so we can stop ‘looking’ for the reforms and start protecting consumers from the rip-offs that these reforms will deliver.

FRIDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2017

This is a joint media release with Labor's Tim Hammond MP Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs.

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CREDIT CARD REFORM LONG OVERDUE

In May 2016 the Treasurer promised reforms to address unfair and excessive credit card fees and charges but some 16 months later, he is yet to deliver on this promise.

18 sitting weeks after the Treasurer promised these reforms in response to a Labor-led Senate Inquiry, he has failed to even introduce legislation to the Parliament that would deliver these important changes.

The promised reforms would improve competition and consumer protections, improve disclosures to customers on fees and charges, tighten responsible lending obligations, and rein in unfair interest charges and are urgently needed to ensure Australians get a better deal on their credit cards.

According to the Government’s own figures, currently there is around $52 billion of debt on the 16.7 million credit cards issued in Australia, with the average balance sitting at $4,730.

If Australians are going to get any relief from unfair and excessive fees they will need the banks to reduce their fees but we also need to have the Government follow through on its promise.

Following on from abolishing ATM fees, the banks should now build upon this and rein in other excessive fees, including credit card late payment fees.

It is only when these two things happen that credit card holders will get a fairer deal from their banks.

If the Treasurer is serious about credit card reforms the legislation he promised more nearly 18 months ago should be introduced in the next sitting week in October. 

TUESDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2017

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LABOR’S ROYAL COMMISSION CALLS LEAD TO BETTER DEAL FOR BANK CUSTOMERS

Labor welcomes the Commonwealth Bank's decision to abolish ATM withdrawal fees and strongly urges other banks to follow suit as a matter of urgency.

The $2 fee to use another bank's ATM has been enjoyed by the banks for too long at the expense of consumers.

This fee has been unfairly chipping away at people's savings little by little for years and today's decision has shown that the game is finally up.

There is no doubting that Labor's calls for a Royal Commission has led to this decision being made by the Commonwealth Bank today.

This is yet another reminder to Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison that they need to abandon their defence of the big banks and take up the side of consumers by establishing a Royal Commission.

There hasn't even been a Banking Royal Commission and we are already seeing the pressure of it, by seeing the ATM fees removed. 

Imagine how we could get better banking for all Australians if we had a Banking Royal Commission.

SUNDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 2017

 

 

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ASIC INDEPENDENCE AT THREAT WITH APPOINTMENT OF JOHN O’SULLIVAN

Reports today that the Turnbull Government intends to proceed to appoint John O'Sullivan as Chair of ASIC threaten the independence of and bipartisan support for this important regulator. 

Labor makes it very clear, we will not support Mr O'Sullivan's appointment, should it proceed. 

Labor does not do this lightly. We do this in light if our most serious concerns and our respect for the importance of ASIC's independence. 

The reputation of the corporate regulator and its leadership team must be beyond reproach and so to appoint Mr O’Sullivan would raise serious questions around ASIC’s independence and its ability to command trust across markets and the Parliament.

On 24 June this year, in response to earlier reports that this appointment was receiving serious consideration by the Turnbull Government, Federal Labor provided a clear warning on appointing such a partisan figure linked to the Utegate affair which clearly tainted Malcolm Turnbull, to such an important economic institution.

There were emails released as part of the investigations into the Utegate affair which showed contact between Mr O’Sullivan, then Chairman of Credit Suisse’s Australian investment banking operations, and disgraced Treasury official Godwin Grech.

Mr O’Sullivan has been a Liberal Party member in Mr Turnbull’s electorate, a President of the Liberal Party’s Wentworth federal electoral conference and previously donated to Mr Turnbull’s Wentworth Forum.

Australia has well-respected economic regulators based on a tradition of non-partisan appointments.

If the Prime Minister and Treasurer were so foolhardy as to proceed with this appointment, this matter would go directly to the poor judgement of the Prime Minister and Treasurer.

To be frank, it would be a clear sign that Malcolm Turnbull has learnt nothing since Utegate.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has a vital role to play in regulating financial conduct and protecting Australian consumers and the last thing it needs is this sort of controversy fixing itself upon ASIC’s leadership team.

WEDNESDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 2017

This is a joint media release with Labor's Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen MP.

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WORKERS WORSE OFF UNDER TURNBULL GOVERNMENT

The Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute’s report released today reveals that employees stand to lose $100 billion in retirement savings due largely to a number of poor Government policies. 

The reportThe Consequences of Wage Suppression for Australia’s Superannuation System,  shows that wage freezes, cuts to penalty rates and enterprise agreement terminations all contribute to reduced superannuation savings.

These are all policies the Turnbull Government supports.

At a time when wages growth is at record lows, this Government wants to cut penalty rates, freeze wages for its own employees and encourage the termination of agreements, all of which contribute to reduced superannuation savings.

We are seeing too many examples of workers missing out as a result of decisions made by the Turnbull Government, which is hurting the economy, prosperity and growing inequality.

The Turnbull Government should give up its ideological and anti-union attack on industry super funds and focus on policies that maximise superannuation balances for Australians in their retirement years.

It is increasingly evident that this Government sees unions as their political enemy and a threat – and rather than focusing on improving wage growth or job security, it is obsessed with fear campaigns and ripping away the structures that support workers. 

This government is dysfunctional and divided and is only united when it is attacking workers and their unions. 

Under the Turnbull government we are headed to a low-wage, easy-to-hire, easy-to-fire society.

MONDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2017

This is a joint media release with Brendan O'Connor MP, Labor's Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

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BANKING FLAWS EXPOSE LOOPHOLES FOR CRIMINALS

Concerning new reports in Fairfax newspapers today of money laundering under the noses of our big banks is yet another reminder of the Turnbull Government's failure to call a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sector.

The reports raise serious concerns of loopholes and questionable banking practices that are creating opportunities for drug dealers and other criminals to funnel money offshore through Australian accounts.

What else has to happen before Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison admit we need a Royal Commission into the Australian banking and financial services sector?

Recently we have seen allegations from AUSTRAC against the Commonwealth Bank about significant breaches of anti money laundering and terrorism funding laws and now there is an investigation by the prudential regulator APRA.

These are incredibly serious revelations and the government needs to explain what safeguards will be put in place to stop this behaviour from happening.

This behaviour appears to have been happening right under the noses of the big banks, but not enough is being done to stop it.

Labor will not stop calling for a Royal Commission to address the systemic, structural and cultural issues in the banking sector.

FRIDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER 2017 

This is a joint media release with Labor's Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen MP and Labor's Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Matt Thistlethwaite MP.

 

BANKING FLAWS EXPOSE LOOPHOLES FOR CRIMINALS

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SECOND-RATE NBN LEAVES NSW SMALL BUSINESS REELING

NSW small businesses have reported the NBN is costing them an average of $9,000 through delays, disruptions and loss of sales.

Of great concern, 43 per cent of the 850 businesses surveyed by the NSW Business Chamber reported being either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the NBN.

This figure is nearly three times greater than the 15 per cent dissatisfaction rate claimed by the Turnbull Government.

Further, 39 per cent of those surveyed reported having to wait more than four weeks for their NBN connection to come online, 15 per cent waited three to four weeks, 16 per cent waited one to two weeks and just 30 per cent waited less than one week.

In an interview with ABC breakfast radio a spokesman for the NSW Business Chamber said it was “stunned by the responses”.

                Source: ABC AM, 12 September 2017

This comes on the back of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) expressing the frustration of its members:

When people think NBN, they think fast internet but then they sign up and find they are getting slower speeds than they were before. We were told it would be so fast it would shock us. It has shocked us but not because it’s fast.”

By abandoning Fibre to the Premises in 2013, then having to play catch-up by rushing the flawed multi-technology mix, the Government has undermined the NBN experience for small business.

Only Labor understands that small business needs fast and reliable broadband to compete in the 21st century.

TUESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2017

This is a joint media release with Michelle Rowland MP, Labor's Shadow Minister for Communications.

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SLOMO’S DOUBLE SPEAK ON BANK INQUIRIES IS BEMUSING

Scott Morrison is bringing himself undone over his hapless attempts to convince Australians that there is no need for a Royal Commission into the banks.

If you believe ScoMo, a Royal Commission into the entire banking sector is not action, but a single inquiry into just one bank is ‘real action’.

While Labor welcomes today's announcement by APRA to establish an independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank following years of scandals and the recent serious allegations of corporate failings by AUSTRAC, we still strongly believe a Royal Commission is needed.

Over the past 18 months alone we have seen more than $300 million in fines or compensation paid from across the banking and financial services sector. 

The simple fact is we need to ensure Australia's banking system is customer focused and the best it can be across the board. 

The question now is when will the Turnbull Government act in the interests of Australians and establish a Royal Commission.

Not even the serious allegations of breaches of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism funding laws by Australia’s largest bank have been enough to convince the Prime Minister to establish a Royal Commission.  

What is it going to take?

MONDAY, AUGUST 28 2017

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LABOR LEADS DISCUSSION ON WAYS TO BOOST COMMUNITY HOUSING INVESTMENT

Labor is again leading the way on housing affordability, bringing together superannuation funds and community housing providers to consider ways to boost investment in affordable housing in Australia.

Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Doug Cameron and Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Katy Gallagher, today facilitated a roundtable between community housing providers and industry super funds to discuss options for investment in the local market.

AHURI analysis, based on the most recent Census figures show that the proportion of social housing has shrunk over the past 30 years, down from a high of 7 percent in 1991 to 4.2 percent of all housing.

While social housing has declined in Australia, Australian super funds have invested over $1 billion into social housing – but in the USA and UK.

Australian industry super funds have a good record of investing in productive, job-generating projects in Australia. These funds are a potential major source of investment for Australia’s comparatively small community housing sector.

With investment in social and affordable housing sorely needed, government needs to lead the way in encouraging such investment.

Labor advocated for a ‘bond aggregator’ investment vehicle which would assist CHP’s to access cheaper finance, while giving super funds the chance to invest at scale. The Turnbull government has adopted Labor’s policy, but has failed to follow through with policies that would address the ‘yield gap’ that still exists for investors in housing for low-income tenants.

Labor’s roundtable in Melbourne will discuss ways in which barriers to investment such as the yield gap can be overcome.

We thank both the representatives from the community housing providers and the superannuation sector who attended the roundtable and engaged constructively in discussion around opportunities to invest in this space.

WEDNESDAY 23 AUGUST, 2017

This is a joint media release with Senator the Hon Doug Cameron Labor's Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness.

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THE QUEST FOR EQUALITY IS ALMOST COMPLETE

THE QUEST FOR EQUALITY IS ALMOST COMPLETE

In September this year the Australian people will be asked a simple question: “Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?” following a decision by the Turnbull Government to conduct a postal survey to poll community views on same-sex marriage reform, prior to allowing any vote in the parliament.

Despite not agreeing with the decision to conduct the postal survey I will be voting ’yes’ and I will vote ‘yes’ in any parliamentary vote. I want to see same-sex couple enjoy the same legal rights that I do when it comes to marriage and I want to see it happen as soon as possible.

I don’t for a moment think it is right or fair that the legitimacy of the relationships of same-sex couples or their family should be subjected to a popular opinion poll or a survey.  It will be divisive, expensive and has been specifically crafted by those in the government who ultimately want to ensure that marriage equality never happens.

The reality is this is a debate that should be had in the parliament not via a voluntary snail-mail survey. We live in a parliamentary democracy where MPs and Senators are elected to make decisions on behalf of their fellow Australians. Decisions are made every sitting day on national security, on healthcare, on education and on the economy. Indeed when amendments to the Marriage Act last passed the parliament in 2004 they too were achieved through a parliamentary vote.

In 2013 the High Court of Australia, when considering the constitutionality of the ACT Legislative Assembly’s Marriage Equality Act, found that legislating for marriage equality was exclusively a matter for the federal parliament. Some four years on from that decision the Government has refused to allow a free vote in the parliament to progress equality and same-sex couples have instead had to endure more years of delay and discrimination. 

So here we are in 2017 with broad community support for same-sex couples to be able to marry and we are having a voluntary postal survey forced upon us to poll community sentiment. This survey will have no binding effect on any subsequent parliamentary vote and it will cost $122 million of tax payer funds to conduct it.

However, unless the pending High Court challenges against the postal survey are successful it will go ahead and I believe we have to roll up our sleeves, campaign strongly and respectfully and win the vote.

Over the next few months it will be very easy to get lost in the debate with the arguments that will be put by both sides of the debate by politicians, lawyers, religious leaders and social activists.  It will be important to remember that at the centre of this process are people and the families that love them - people who love each other and who simply want to have their relationship recognised by marriage. That’s it. It really is that simple. 

There are no reasonable or rational arguments to oppose marriage equality. The usual lines about the sanctity of the “nuclear family” and concerns over children will no doubt get a run but that is not what the survey is about.

The nuclear family, if it ever really existed, certainly doesn’t now and thousands of same sex couples have children who are much loved and cared for as they are in any other family. Malcolm Turnbull’s survey is not about any of these issues. It is simply about allowing one section of our community, who are currently denied the legal right to marry, to be able to do so.

Whilst we should never have been placed in the position to be surveyed about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry that is where we find ourselves today and those who support marriage equality need to stand together and get involved.

We must support those who are having their relationship scrutinised in this unprecedented way, we must continue to call for a free vote in the parliament and we must continue to campaign for equal treatment under the law for every Australian citizen.

I will be voting yes and I will be doing everything I can to promote the "yes" campaign. Over the next three months the responsibility falls to every one of us who supports marriage equality to join together and use all of our strength to win the argument and the vote.

This opinion piece was first published in The Canberra Times on Friday August 18, 2017.

 

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