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Transcript of doorstop interview: 14 December 2010: banking reforms; Finance and Real Estate sector forums in Devenport

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Joe Hockey, MP Shadow Treasurer Member for North Sydney



Subjects: Banking reforms; Finance and Real Estate sector forums in Devonport


I would have thought that after announcing his banking reform, Wayne Swan would be all over the country selling his package. Instead it’s Joe Hockey here in Tasmania meeting with local credit unions and local loan lenders to understand what the impact is of the Government’s program on banking.

Wherever you go in Australia, people are affected by an incompetent Government, be it here in Devonport or Sydney or in Perth. The bottomline is that Wayne Swan should be out there explaining his package to the Australian people. Instead when he became confused with his own Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten yesterday, Wayne Swan ran for the hills. This package is unravelling as each day passes.

It’s quite clear that smaller players are disadvantaged and not advantaged by the Government’s banking program. It’s quite clear that the major banks are hugely advantaged by this program and there is not going to be more competition. There is not going to be any downward pressure on interest rates. We are not going to have a more stable and secure banking system because the Government has not dealt with the major issue that faces the Australian financial system - whether financial institutions are now too big to fail and what the impact of that is for communities.

Now I’m here in Devonport at the request of Senator Colbeck because housing affordability is an increasing issue for everyday Australian families. Whether it be the middle of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne or here in Devonport, or anywhere in Tasmania the fundamental question is whether families can afford to pay the mortgage and put a roof over their heads.

I will be pursuing this issue in 2011. It is a core issue that goes to the heart of Australia’s lifestyle affordability and quite frankly coming down here to Devonport to meet with not only local financial institutions but a range of local real estate agents is the beginning of what will be a significant new policy initiative from the Liberal-National Party to focus on housing affordability and the challenge of rising housing costs.


Wayne Swan is saying the banks are only complaining about his bank plan because it makes it easier for the customers to punish them. Do you support the banks there or do you think they’re just whinging.


Well I don’t think the criticism is coming from banks big and small alone. It is coming from people like John Symond who was in many ways an architect of the campaign to deliver more competition into the housing market during the 90s and the early 2000s. It is coming from commentators who understand banking.

A fundamental problem for Wayne Swan is he doesn’t understand what he is talking about. And when you combine that with someone who is insipid, it is an awful cocktail for reform.


When you first took banks to task on Melbourne Cup day, you were poo-pooed basically and its seems like everybody else has come up with the same idea. Do you think they have jumped on your bandwagon?


Well I wish Wayne Swan would jump on more of my bandwagon. Of the 9 point plan he’s only adopted two and half points. I would urge him to go further, to adopt all of them and in particular to adopt point 9 which calls for a Wallis type enquiry into the broad financial services system.

I say again, there are some aspects of the plan that are attractive, and many of those we suggested, such as greater power to the ACCC in relation to price signalling, such as covered bonds. But look, I’m not so precious to think I’ve had some great political victory if he takes some of my initiatives. I’d say, I only offer them because I want to see good policy outcomes.

Quite frankly, the Coalition under Tony Abbott has taken the lead on this policy issue and it’s the Government that’s playing catch up. I wish they’d catch up to us.


You said Wayne Swan should have been out talking about his plan today. Was that in reference to the fact that he’s been at training with the Australian Cricket Team?


Has he?


Is that inappropriate?


I didn’t know… he’s been training with the Australian Cricket Team?


At training with.


Ah, right. Well, I don’t know, what he does with his diary is his business. I would think that he should be - if it is the substantial reform that he talks about - I would have thought Wayne Swan would have been visiting small businesses, visiting small home lenders. You know, it’s amazing, what has stunned me in this entire debate, he talked it up so significantly before the debate, he said he was going to create a fifth pillar, he’s not saying too much about the fifth pillar after the announcement.

The big things that he flagged, that he leaked to the papers, he’s stopped talking about after the announcement, which just shows these guys are all spin and no substance. They’re all talk and no action. Quite frankly, Australians are totally sick of governments that talk a lot and deliver little.

If I was the Australian Cricket Team and I was a Test down, I wouldn’t pick Wayne Swan as the key motivator.


The focus on housing affordability that you’re signalling, is that the start of a more positive agenda from the Coalition?


We offered a positive agenda - a 9 Point Plan on banking. I thought that was a very positive agenda. Look I think housing affordability is a major issue for Australians. We’ve talked about it. Tony Abbott has talked about it. It is a big issue for Australian families. The biggest bill that comes into the everyday Australian household is the mortgage. It is the mortgage repayment. The bigger the mortgage, the bigger the repayment. The bigger the home, or the more expensive the home I should say, then usually it is accompanied by bigger repayments and a bigger mortgage. Australians really cringe at mortgage increases, because they’ve got big home loans. In many cases that is the only way you can afford to put a roof over your head in Australia. This is titanic issue for the people of Australia.


Is there anything in these forums that you’ll be addressing specific to the North West Coast?


Well, it has been housing affordability. I will be interested to hear a bit more about the National Broadband and if it really is making a difference, and look I’ll also be explaining our 9 Point Plan as an alternative to the Government’s on Sunday. You often pick up trends out of people that are unexpected.

Richard asked me to come here. I’ve come down to listen but also to explain the pros and cons of the banking debate at the moment. Everyone is affected, especially in the lead up to Christmas. I’ll be queued up like everyone else at the ATM taking out money to buy Christmas presents and, you know, also putting it on my credit card. Hopefully I won’t be worrying too much, but I will be, I’m sure, about how to repay it all after Christmas. The same as everyone else.