Doorstop Interview - Sydney - 12/11/2010

12 November 2010

WONG: Thanks very much for coming. The NAB is the latest bank to let its customers down. There is no justification for any bank to move above the official interest rate rise that the Reserve Bank has set. Theres no justification and the National Australia Bank is the latest bank to let its customers down.
I do want to make a comment about Mr Abbott. Mr Abbott said yesterday and Im quoting, the problem is not the banks. Mr Abbott said, I dont blame the banks. Well I think Mr Abbott has made clear what the real agenda of the Opposition is here. Its not to blame the banks thats what he said. Its not to ensure that theres a good outcome for Australian customers.
I want to make very clear what the Governments position is. We are determined to get an outcome for Australian consumers. And we are determined to do it in a way that ensures that we have a strong and competitive banking sector. There are a range of reforms that the Government has already introduced and weve seen the banks move in a direct response to those laws in relation to unfair exit fees. And the Government will unveil further reforms. Well do that sensibly and we will do it to ensure competition in this market. Thats the way to keep pressure on the banks to do the right thing by Australian customers. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what does a Friday afternoon announcement by NAB say about NAB?
WONG: Well I think NAB is the latest bank not to do the right thing by its customers. I think that weve seen banks not doing the right thing by their customers. I think Australians are rightly disappointed in the banks failure to do the right thing by their customers.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a message for Westpac or (inaudible)
WONG: What I say is this: there isnt any justification for any major bank putting in place an interest rate rise above the official interest rate. There isnt any justification and banks, I think, should consider the reaction of Australian consumers.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister changed her speech to that that was given to the media yesterday at the luncheon. Why?
WONG: I think the Prime Minister often might extemporise off in relation to speeches. I wouldnt read too much into it.
I did see some comments by Mr Hockey on this issue where he made some assertions about the Prime Minister. I dont think anybody who has met or worked with Julia Gillard would describe her as timid.
JOURNALIST: The NAB has waived exit fees. Would you encourage its customers to (inaudible) the bank?
WONG: Lets be clear. The banks arent moving on exit fees to be generous. The banks are moving on exit fees in a direct response to the Government introducing laws that crack down on exit fees. The banks are moving because the Government put in place laws that have forced them to move. This is a direct response to what the Government has done.
My message to Australians is that there are not only the major banks in this country; there are other lenders. We want good competition in the marketplace. The Government has supported competition and we will continue to support competition because thats the best way to keep the pressure on the banks to give good products at good prices to Australian consumers.
JOURNALIST: So what about the foreign banks, theyre saying, let us in (inaudible)
WONG: As I said, the Government has put in place a range of reforms to encourage competition - $16 billion into residential mortgage-backed securities. We will continue to encourage competition, and we have done. Its disappointing that so many of the Australian banks to date are not listening to the Australian people.