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Friday, 19 November 1993
Page: 3283

Senator KERNOT —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It follows my question yesterday about banks and bank margins. I ask: is the minister aware that if last year's bank margins had been maintained and not increased by Australia's major banks, then consumers, particularly Australian business, would have been better off to the tune of $53.7 million? Will the minister acknowledge the accumulating evidence that competition and self-regulation are not really helping consumers in the banking industry? Will the government withdraw its support for the hopelessly inadequate voluntary Bankers' Code of Conduct and implement the recommendations of the Martin and Elliott committees to establish a comprehensive register of comparative interest rates and the associated charges and margins of banks?

Senator McMULLAN —I was not aware that, if the banks had maintained their margins at last year's level, people would have saved $53.7 million. When one thinks about the amount of money invested in banks around Australia and the amount of interest paid to Australians, that does not seem like very much. As far as I can work it out, on a bit of rough arithmetic, it sounds like $3 a head to Australians to me.

Senator Herron —And to me.

Senator McMULLAN —I thank Senator Herron. I am sure that, with his eminent academic qualifications, his arithmetic must be right. Sometimes his health policies are not so good, but I have great faith in his arithmetic.

  The thrust of Senator Kernot's question goes to a substantial question concerning the Bankers' Code of Conduct. I will get an answer from the Treasurer for her on that. I know that the Treasurer has strong views about the matter, but it is not a matter that I have discussed with him. I will get an answer from him for Senator Kernot.