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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1400


Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (14:38): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline for the House the importance of a strong and competitive—

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER: Are you taking a point of order on the member for Hindmarsh?

Mr Abbott: I am making a point of order on your ruling just a moment ago. It is surely legitimate, under the standing orders, for the Prime Minister to be questioned about statements she has made to the House. Given the statements she has just made to the House about contacts between her office and ministers' offices and Fair Work Australia, I put it to you that it is contrary to all precedent for that question to be ruled out of order.

The SPEAKER: One could take the view that as I have given the member for Hindmarsh the call we have moved on. But I will do the leader the courtesy of, firstly, pointing out that it is not a ruling, because supplementary questions are at the discretion of the Speaker, and, secondly, that supplementary questions are to arise out of the answer. It is my view that the supplementary question sought to be asked by the honourable Manager of Opposition Business did not sufficiently arise out of the answer the Prime Minister gave. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has the call.

Mr GEORGANAS: Will the Treasurer outline for the House the importance of a strong and competitive banking sector?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:40): I thank the member for Hindmarsh for what is a very important question. This government has worked every single day for a very strong and stable banking sector in this country. It is why we took decisive action at the height of the global financial crisis. We did it for the country. We did it to secure the supply of credit. It is why we have introduced covered bonds into this House—to assist the banks with their long-term funding profile.

My belief as Treasurer, and the belief of the government, is that the banking system should work for all Australians—for every customer, for every worker, for the shareholders, for the broader community and for the whole economy. We have heard the half-yearly profit of the Commonwealth Bank today: $3.7 billion. They have made that profit despite global volatility in financial markets. It shows that they are hugely profitable. That is why we on this side of the House are so committed to competition reforms, so that people who are unhappy with their bank can walk down the road and get a better deal. That is why we have put in place a range of comprehensive measures. One of those measures was to abolish mortgage exit fees.

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for North Sydney will contain himself.

Mr SWAN: That was ruled out by the shadow Treasurer. It was ruled out even quicker than Moe over here could say no. Their instant response to important competition reforms was to oppose them—and oppose them they did, in this House.

Mr Randall: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer is a serial offender in not referring to members by their seats. I would ask you to get him to do so.

The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will in future refer to honourable members by their seat or by their title and not by their name. The Treasurer continues to have the call.

Mr SWAN: The Leader of the Opposition ruled it out very quickly, as did the shadow Treasurer. But we put in place a whole range of competition reforms, and they are delivering results. By the end of this year there will be one million households with mortgages that do not have mortgage exit fees—something that was opposed by those on the other side of the House, by their frontbench team. There are over 180,000 homeowners who have refinanced, more than $46 billion worth of home loans through 2011. That is something like 20 per cent. We have already seen the ME Bank, Credit Union of Australia and the Bank of Queensland out there offering competitive rates.

We on this side of the House are absolutely determined to see greater competition in the banking system so that people who are unhappy with their financial institution can walk down the road and get a better deal. And when it comes to interest rates, those opposite and everyone else in this House should well remember that when they promised to keep interest rates at record lows they went up 10 times in a row. The cash rate is at 4.25. When they left office it was 6.75. Today, if you have a $300,000 mortgage it costs you $3,000 a year less than it did under the Liberals.