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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ECONOMICS
13/03/2009
Aspects of bank mergers
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ECONOMICS
Senate committee
Friday, 13 March 2009
Aspects of bank mergers
Final

CHAIR (Senator Hurley) —I declare open the second hearing of the Senate Economics Committee inquiring into aspects of bank mergers. On 24 November 2008, the Senate referred to us a range of matters relating to bank mergers and the practice of offshoring jobs. The committee is due to report by 17 September 2009. This inquiry will investigate the economic, social and employment impacts of the recent mergers among Australian banks, with particular focus on the Westpac-St George merger. The inquiry will also investigate the sufficiency of the measures available to enforce any conditions placed on merger parties by the Treasurer, the ACCC’s power to force divestiture and its methods for measuring competition, and the adequacy of section 50 of the Trade Practices Act in preventing further concentration in the banking sector, with particular reference to the merits of a public benefit test. The inquiry will also investigate the extent to which Australia’s banks have offshored office services and the impact of this practice on employment for Australians.

These are public proceedings, although the committee may agree to a request to have evidence heard in camera or may determine that certain evidence should be heard in camera. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may of course also be made at any other time. A witness called to answer a question for the first time should state their full name and the capacity in which they appear, and witnesses should speak clearly and into the microphones to assist Hansard to record proceedings. Mobile phones should be switched off.

[9.05 am]