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Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 783

Senator HEARN —I address my question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Has he seen the article in today's Canberra Times headed 'Doubts over financial advice to pensioners', which is based partly on his response yesterday to Senator Black's question regarding avoidance of the pension income test? Do the reported comments by various bank managers to the effect that it is not their responsibility to advise pensioners one way or the other on the wisdom of investing large sums of money in non-interest-bearing accounts partly explain the prevalence of such accounts under the previous income test?

Senator GIETZELT —Yes, I have seen the article in today's Canberra Times in which both Senator Grimes and I have been quoted, following Question Time yesterday. I am somewhat appalled by the laissez-faire attitude with which the particular bank managers regard their responsibilities and obligations to the customers' welfare and interests. I was particularly interested in the comments attributed to the Australian Capital Territory Manager of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited who is reported as saying that it is the customers' prerogative to deposit funds in non-interest-bearing accounts in order to qualify for the pension or fringe benefits. He went to some lengths to say that that was a proper course of action. He also said that in the circumstances the bank accepted the money and the customer was not advised one way or the other, to use his words. I find this statement rather odd in view of the claim made by the bank's brochure promoting its retirement service, a copy of which I have here, under the heading 'Advice you can trust'. It goes on to say:

. . . a great help when it comes to organising things like a regular income, security for your future, your pension eligibility and tax aspects of your investment programme.

The brochure, under the heading 'The Pension. Your eligibility' also says:

Your eligibility, or more importantly, your potential to realise your full eligibility is crucial to you. Our advisers are constantly updating on the relevant entitlements and qualifications.

I also find it somewhat ironical that the service pensioner to whom I referred in replying to the question that I was asked yesterday with assessable assets of $356,000, including $354,000 in a non-interest bearing account, had his money in the ANZ Bank. Just this morning another case involving a service pensioner, a customer of the ANZ Bank in Queensland, was brought to my attention. This single home-owning pensioner had $135,000 in the bank, $100,000 of which was earning no interest at all. I have calculated that, after allowing for his pension entitlement, fringe benefits, tax and income test threshold and so on, he was being deprived of at least $3,000 a year by poor advice or, more likely, no advice whatsoever. Honourable senators will, of course, be familiar with this sort of advice from people in banking institutions, in particular from the ANZ Bank, which claims in its retirement services brochure to be 'the bank that serves you best'. It ought to change its slogan and call itself 'the bank that serves itself best' in view of the advice it is giving pensioners.