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BFCSA: David Murray aids Cranky banks urge Scott Morrison to drop aggressive tactics

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Cranky banks urge Scott Morrison to drop aggressive tactics

Australian Financial ReviewMay 31 2017 11:30 PM

Phillip Coorey, James Frost

 David Murray has slammed the bank levy as a "hate tax" as he and others in the banking, investment and business communities urged Treasurer Scott Morrison to tone down his aggressive language against the banks, claiming it poses a similar threat to confidence as Labor's clamour last year for a Royal Commission.

Although resigned to the imposition of the $6.2 billion bank levy, the banks remain alarmed at the tone used by the Treasurer as he sells the tax as well as tough new accountability standards for executives that will be policed by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

Of particular concern was a story in Wednesday's popular Sydney tabloid, The Daily Telegraph, which reported the new APRA standards as "tough new rules to crack down on high-flying executives who take drugs or engage in criminal behaviour", words the Treasurer did not actually use.

The APRA powers, which were announced in the budget on May 9, are yet to be codified in terms of what constitutes an offence for an executive to be sacked or have his or her bonus revoked.

Also Wednesday, when introducing the legislation for the bank tax, Mr Morrison delivered a bruising speech in which he described the banks to be taxed as an "oligopoly" and said that they were using their pricing power to the "detriment" of everyday Australians.

Mr Murray, author of the Financial System Inquiry and former Commonwealth Bank CEO, said the announcement of the bank levy had all corners of the business community concerned.

"It's a hate tax. So the question becomes, who else do we hate? Which sector comes next?" Mr Murray said.

Ross Barker, managing director of Australian Foundation Investment Company with close to $2 billion invested in the big four banks and Macquarie, said the government's stance was needlessly aggressive and would hurt all Australians.

"It's not helpful for government to attack any industry, let alone one that is critical to a properly functioning economy," Mr Barker said.

A former big four bank CEO who declined to be named described the government's stance as disappointing and the levy as populist nonsense.

"The principle of taxation is either about equity or efficiency and this is neither," he said.

Industry sources said chief executives of three of the big four banks who have been abroad on investor road shows on the back of half-yearly profit announcements, were being questioned by investors puzzled at the the tone being used against the banks by the government. The same anecdotes about damaged investor confidence were relayed back last year, including by the government, when Labor was bashing the banks.

"For Bill Shorten to go down this path, I think it is a reckless distraction that puts at risk confidence in the banking system," Mr Morrison said in April last year.

Mr Morrison rejected assertions he was hurting the sector.

"As noted in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Major Bank Levy bill, APRA has confirmed the levy will not have a material impact on the resilience of the financial system," he said.

"I have full confidence in the strength of our banking and financial system and have a clear track record of underscoring the importance of our banking and financial sector in the continued success of our economy."

Mr Morrison never used the terms "drugs" or "criminal behaviour" when talking to the Telegraph but did cite "scandalous" behaviour. He justified the APRA regime by saying "there have been recurring scandals and Australians remain puzzled by the big salaries, the rate rises and the fees for everything".

"Too often, through their own actions, banks confirm some of the worst views Australians have of them."

Two weeks ago, he used the term "voodoo" to describe to the Telegraph the method banks use to decide out-of-cycle rate increases, as he confirmed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would be scrutinising future increases.

The day after the budget, he stated he was not at "war with the banks", but warned them not to pass on the cost of the levy to customers, saying the public "already don't like you very much".

One of the banks affected by the tax has reported back concerns regarding sovereign risk.

"The country risk is going up as a result of this politicking," a source said.

"It's both sides. It's a race by Malcolm (Turnbull) to out-Labor Labor on banks."

Another industry executive who asked not to be named said that now a Coalition government was unleashing on the banks, "everything is permissible".

"The question is: Where is the government going with all of this?"

The industry still has no plans to mount an anti-mining-tax style campaign that succeeded in forcing Labor to dump its original mining tax and helped with the downfall of Kevin Rudd.

Reasons include the banks have no political support, whereas the miners had the backing of Tony Abbott and the Coalition opposition.

And from a campaign point of view, there were very few preconceived public notions about the mining industry, making it easy to create from scratch a campaign that engendered sympathy for the miners.

Most people already have negative perceptions of the banks and polls show support for the tax is popular.

APRA chairman Wayne Byres is among those with no sympathy for the banks.

He told a Senate Estimates Committee on Tuesday the tax, a 0.06 per cent levy on liabilities, "didn't seem to me to be destabilising, or such a shock to the system it couldn't be managed in an orderly fashion".

Meanwhile, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office confirmed on Wednesday that the tax would raise $6.2 billion over the first four years as forecast.

The PBO said the tax would raise a gross $7 billion, which would net $6.2 billion after company tax and other deductions.



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  • Duped
    Duped Friday, 02 June 2017


    This prize prick David Murray was very much part of the scandalous cabal and reason why our fellow members find themselves in the mess today with fraudulent lafs. No wonder he is trying to criticize the governments banking tax, he would be pissing his pants that when Labor wins the next election and the Royal Commission commences he will be forced to front and answer questions. Sleazy Joe Hockey put this cretin and mate in charge of the Financial Inquiry guaranteeing that our voices and submissions wouldn't see the light of day. This guy walked from the CBA with over 100 Million dollars, which as we all know was made up of the victims of fraud assets and hard earned. The last laugh may be, being forced to hand the majority of this cash back to his victims?

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