The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Bernie Ripoll

Bernie Ripoll

Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer

5 March 2012 - 18 September 2013

Transcript of 20/3/2012

NO.001

Interview with Geraldine Coutts

ABC NEWSRADIO

20 MARCH 2012

SUBJECT: Australian Government explains Pacific Money Transfer Card

RIPOLL:

Well it's quite simple, it's a two-card system, it's basically a pre-paid Visa solution, and what happens is somebody here in Australia can subscribe to one of these cards, they get two cards, one for home, one for here, and it's literally just a money transfer system between the two cards for two card holders. But I think the real beauty of this is that it really does cut down on what has been a pretty enormous cost for people to transfer money between Australia and the Pacific Islands. So we're certainly happy to have helped facilitate this in supporting this new system.

COUTTS:

How much will it cut costs?

RIPOLL:

Well it depends on different rates, but it's a lot cheaper and it's a much more secure, more efficient system. So there are varying rates, but substantially lower than what people are used to paying, and certainly it's something that the Australian government's been looking at for some time and working with our Pacific Island friends to make sure that we can put in place a better system, a more efficient system, and a much cheaper system for transfers.

COUTTS:

Is it Pacific-wide or restricted to a few countries at the moment?

RIPOLL:

Look it's in Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Tonga, it's in a range of countries, but it's certainly in areas where Australia has got a fairly deep relationship, and it's something that we've been working on since 2009 and it's been part of a number of meetings between Australia and the Pacific Islands. And it has I think demonstrated a good relationship, a good working relationship between us and different island countries and trying to look at how we can better integrate our systems, better integrate the way that people live and work and transfer money of course.

COUTTS:

And not in the Solomon Islands, because they have an established banking system and have hole-in-the-walls or money transfer systems?

RIPOLL:

Yeah look that's right, they do, and there a number of services in existence in Solomon Islands as well, and these services will expand of course. I mean they're just starting, so I think over a period of time what we're going to see them spread further and further. But right now, particularly with the pre-paid visa solution it's particularly for Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga. And it'll spread I'm sure in the future into other places.

COUTTS:

What do you mean by pre-paid, is it like a pre-paid sim card, how does it work?

RIPOLL:

It is pre-paid, it's basically the same as a transfer card or a visa card, so it looks just like any other card. It's pre-paid in the sense that you have to put money in it first, so it really is a debit card in that sense. So for example somebody working here in Australia who's got this card and they've given one to a family member for example overseas, they put money into their account here and then somebody can take money out at the other end with the same card. So there are only two cards and you give the other card to a family member or whoever you want to be able to access money from that account.

COUTTS:

Now Mr Ripoll you said that you've been working on this since 2009, it's a long time, why such a long lead in time?

RIPOLL:

Look it's been part of a process where government through different forums have been trying to establish the system between different countries, but we've really been out there looking for commercial partners. So it is quite complex in terms of how you setup the technology for these things to happen. What we've wanted to do is make sure that there are commercial solutions in place, things that can grow and expand and give people choice. But also mean that you've got really good decent commercial rates for people. So it's been part of a number of meetings since 2009, and then last year in Australia at CHOGM those systems were put into place.

COUTTS:

And it is restricted to populations close to the capitals, the central business districts?

RIPOLL:

No look it'll be anywhere where you've got access either to a bank outlet directly, or anywhere where there's an ATM, basically anywhere you could use a card now will mean you'll be able to use the two card pre-paid solution.

COUTTS:

Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga are online already and the system is available. Are you thinking about expanding to other countries?

RIPOLL:

Look certainly this is the beginning of a program and I think there'll certainly be expansion. I think the key here is once you've got commercial operators and banks actually putting this into place, they spend a bit of money to get it started, once it's started, once the technology's there it'll expand. They're also looking at also using mobile phone technology, so anywhere where you've got phone coverage people will be able to pay bills or make transfers or use mobile technology platforms. So really what we're seeing is an expansion and growth in the Pacific Islands of things that here in Australia we might be a bit more accustomed to, but we'll see more and more of in the Pacific Islands as well.

COUTTS:

Both with mobile phone banking and more particularly with a hole-in-the-wall the system that you're talking about now, there have been security issues, and we've heard here in Australia where they've been taken advantage of. Are there issues for the Pacific in terms of security?

RIPOLL:

Well look there won't be any more issues, already further issues than there would be today anywhere else. These systems, the same bank systems, the same technology, the same securities will be in place, so people can feel comfortable and reassured that they'll have the same protection, the same securities and the same systems that we've got here. There are other systems in place, there's also the Send Money Pacific system, which is being jointly funded by Australia and New Zealand governments, and it's helping to develop markets in those areas as well. That was actually launched last year in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga as well, and that private sector engagement is I think what's important, because it means you've got commercial access and people can have the same sort of opportunities and access as they would here in Australia or in New Zealand.

COUTTS:

People listening in Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga, if they're hearing about this for the first time, how do they get onto this and get started with this system themselves?

RIPOLL:

Well obviously through either directly they can make application, the ANZ are the commercial operators that are providing these first systems, otherwise through the Australian government website. So if anyone wants to go to aph.gov.au or more closely if they want to go through directly to, there's a specific website which helps people to just gain some more information, and it's sendmoneypacific.org. And that'll give people information and the sort of information they need to get started.