Government Works With Banking Industry on Floods Help
The Assistant Treasurer yesterday met with the Australian Banking Association, banking industry executives, key financial consumer group representatives and the Financial Ombudsman's Service to discuss the banking sector's immediate response to the Queensland floods.
The banks have announced packages to help families and individuals, businesses and farmers affected by flood waters. This can include deferring home loan repayments, restructuring business loans without incurring fees, providing additional financial support or credit or other measures as appropriate to affected customers. If people are concerned about their financial situation, they should contact their bank to discuss the support available.
While the nature of flood issues banks themselves are facing is evolving with events, the meeting highlighted the firm and unanimous agreement on the crucial role of the industry in enabling communities to function as normally as possible, recover and rebuild.
"I am pleased that all voices around the table recognised the real benefits of establishing a consistent approach to hardship measures being put in place by banks and other lenders," the Assistant Treasurer said.
"It was also important to hear first hand stories about how the floods are impacting on these businesses as employers and key service providers within so many Queensland communities. Staffing issues, closed branches and submerged infrastructure, ATM facilities and cash distribution arrangements – these are all real concerns and I am heartened to hear that these people and services involved are holding up well in some very tough circumstances."
Banking representatives noted that they have well developed processes in place to deal with crisis situations - for example inundated bank branches are opening as soon as possible, to see that customers are affected by closures at little as possible.
The roundtable discussions also acknowledged the recovery and rebuilding phase that will follow the emergency relief period and agreed to keep talking about how banks can structure their services for affected customers in a way that best assists this rebuilding process.
The Australian Financial Counselling and Credit Reform Association highlighted lessons from recent natural disasters like the Victorian bushfires and how past experience can inform the cooperative response to the Queensland floods that will inevitably be needed for many months."We will continue to ensure there is strong national leadership in banking services and the industry participants who have already spoken this week agreed to meet again soon to progress our useful dialogue. Families and businesses should be reassured that the Gillard Government will keep working closely with the banking sector to see that all is reasonably being done to assist our brave citizens who are experiencing the pressures of these devastating floods," the Assistant Treasurer said.
13 January 2011