Banks angry at having to sign confidentiality agreement on $6.2b levy

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Scott Morrison has asked ACCC investigators to probe whether banks are misleading customers over rate hikes.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says the competition watchdog will keep pressure on the banks as the levy is introduced this year. Picture: Craig Wilson.

FEDERAL crossbench MP Bob Katter believes the big five bank’s criticism of having to sign a confidentiality agreement over their new levy is a “triumph of hypocrisy”.

The Australian Bankers’ Association has hit out at Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision ahead of the release of the draft bank tax legislation.

“A bad tax has now become a secret tax,” the association’s chief Anna Bligh said.

“The government is going to extraordinary lengths to keep this tax hidden from the people who will be most affected by it and from the public.”

But Mr Katter slammed the banks response, citing repeated reports to his office of farmers, small business people and every day Australians being forced to sign confidentiality agreements, protecting the banks.

STANDING FIRM: ScoMo insists banks sign confidentiality agreement

Independent Member for Kennedy Bob Katter doesn’t mince his words.

Independent Member for Kennedy Bob Katter doesn’t mince his words.Source:AAP

“What they are screaming about here is exactly what they have been imposing in every single one of their threatened foreclosures in Australia. Every single bank has been doing it,” he said in a statement today.

“Now they have the hide, when their own conditions are applied to themselves — to squeal like stuck pigs. Talk about a triumph in hypocrisy.”

Mr Morrison today told reporters “it’s not an irregular practice”.

“These are sensitive matters,” the Treasurer said.

“We are respecting their confidentiality as well”.

As the big five rally against the new $6.2 billion levy over four years, the welfare sector has thrown its weight behind it.

Economists have queried whether the levy could lead to the banks lifting interest rates and fees, disproportionately making it harder for low-income families to buy a home.

Australian Bankers Association CEO Anna Bligh says a bad tax has now become a secret tax. Picture: Kym Smith.

Australian Bankers Association CEO Anna Bligh says a bad tax has now become a secret tax. Picture: Kym Smith.Source:News Corp Australia

But Australian Council of Social Service chief Dr Cassandra Goldie told AAP new revenue sources were needed.

“Without this, the burden will fall on people with the lowest incomes through social security payment and service cuts,” she said.

“A well-designed levy on banks that takes account of their privileged position in financial services and the higher profits that result is a fair and sensible way to raise public revenue.”

She said transaction taxes operating overseas had been found to be regressive but the government’s proposal was different.

However, she noted the tax needed to be “carefully designed and targeted”.

Mr Morrison says a similar tax introduced in the UK was absorbed by banks and not passed on.

He says the competition watchdog will keep pressure on the banks as the levy is introduced this year.

Labor says it is open to extending the levy to the biggest foreign banks — an idea raised by the Nick Xenophon Team.



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