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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 902


Mr ROBB (2:27 PM) —Mr Speaker—

Government members interjecting—


Mr ROBB —Calm down, come on.

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —The member for Goldstein will ignore the interjections. The interjectors will sit there quietly.


Mr ROBB —Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Treasurer.

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —The member for Goldstein will sit down and we will reset the clock for the third time. It would help if the whole House did not display when they come into this chamber the type of white-line fever that they do on the sporting field and believe that everything is going against them. They will sit there quietly. The member for Goldstein has the call. If members have advice for the chair, they can stand by way of a point of order.


Mr ROBB —My question is to the Treasurer. Treasury documents reveal that banning mortgage exit fees would not only increase interest rates, as you did not deny; it could also disproportionately impact first home buyers through higher establishment fees and ongoing fees. Why is the Treasurer proceeding with a plan that Treasury suggests will make life harder for first home buyers?


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I reject the assertions of the shadow minister for finance. It makes sense that getting rid of unfair exit fees makes our banking system more competitive. I understand that some of the very profitable banks do not like the idea of getting rid of unfair mortgage exit fees, and I understand that one or two other banks that are not big banks are not supporting it either. But the government’s view is very clear and very principled: they are not fair and, therefore, they should be abolished. They should be abolished in the interest of greater competition.

It is asserted by some that their abolition may mean that customers will pay more in other fees, but we have dealt with this in our consumer law and we have already put in place very clear provisions that unconscionable conduct when it comes to fees from banks will be scrutinised very closely by the regulator. It will not be tolerated if a bank seeks to move the fee from an unfair exit fee to somewhere else in the system, and that will be scrutinised very closely.

Let us be clear what this is all about. This is all about the fact that those opposite do not have a positive view for Australia’s future. They say no to everything. They say no to health reform. They say no to a flood levy. They could never support stimulus to save this economy from recession. And now, yet again, they are playing opportunistic politics—but they are absolutely on the wrong side. Everybody over there now is putting up their hand and saying they think it is a good thing that there can be unfair exit fees as high as $7,000 locking customers into their loans and their banks when they are unhappy. The government will not tolerate that. That is why we are bringing this legislation forward. Every member of this House will have a very clear say on this legislation, and we will see where they stand. Do they stand for customers or do they stand for the banks?