Assistant Treasurer, Minister Assisting for Financial Services & Superannuation and Minister for Competition Policy & Consumer Affairs
5 March 2012 - 18 September 2013
Interview with Kieran Gilbert
Sky News Lunchtime Agenda
16 April 2012
SUBJECTS: Andrew Robb defending ANZ interest rate increase
What I think is interesting here is that Andrew Robb has just taken it at face value, there have been no questions asked. I think it's important that we maintain some accountability here, particularly in the context of the Reserve Bank having recently said that as far as they're concerned, these offshore funding costs are starting to decline. It's in that context that we say it's important to maintain some accountability. If a bank is going to take a decision that we say, of the sort that we saw, that it's important we ask some serious questions about the extent to which those funding cost pressures are real and the extent to which they are responsible for those increases.
Instead, what we saw from Andrew Robb was him making excuses for the bank rather than asking those hard questions. I think there are small business people and working Australians right across Australia that want to know that there is someone standing up for them asking those hard questions.
Why shouldn't we think that you're engaging in simplistic bank bashing while it's Andrew Robb actually telling it how it is?
Well, look, I did see that in not defending Andrew Robb's comments a bit earlier today, Mr Abbott came out and said "well I'm not here to defend the banks", well evidently, he probably feels that way because it seems as thought that's Andrew Robb's job, to be out there defending the banks.
I'm not here to be defending the banks, I'm here to be standing up for the people that I represent in the community and I think that a lot of people raised their eyebrows, and in fact some people had a much more hostile response on Friday when they learned that their interest rates were being increased at a time when the Reserve Bank had not moved the cash rate. Now it's important that we ask those questions. I keep coming back to the point that the Reserve Bank, as recently as their most recent statement, said that as far as they can tell, offshore funding costs have started to ease. It is in that context that we are asking questions. Andrew Robb might be happy to give the banks the green light to jack up rates. But as far as we are concerned we want to ask those hard questions, because if we're not asking them, then frankly who is standing up for working Australians?
Tony Abbott did make the point that it's the Government borrowing $100 million a day, as he was advocating this argument this morning, and saying that that is putting upward pressure on interest rates. He said he's not going to defend the banks, but focus should be on the Government and its borrowing. What he said is true isn't it, that that borrowing does have that impact?
Well, if he is suggesting that the increase by the ANZ is as a result of Government borrowing, then I challenge him to find one reputable economist that supports his proposition. Now, the point is –
It doesn't help though does it. It doesn't help to have the borrowing in the market?
Well, like I said, find one reputable economist that would make that claim. What we say, and this goes to the broader question of the Reserve Bank and the judgements they ultimately have to make, is that the best thing we can do at this point in the economic cycle, with unemployment low, with a record pipeline of investment and our growth returning to trend, the best thing we can do to take pressure off interest rates and give the Reserve Bank the ability to cut rates, is to return the Budget to surplus. And that's why – people talk about the return to surplus as if it's just some sort of objective that has no impact on people's lives – the reason why it is so important is, because in times such as these, where the Budgetary position should allow, we need to return to surplus, give the Reserve Bank the room that it needs to cut rates.
The last question I'll put to you. As critical as you've been of Andrew Robb this morning and again now in our interview, the fact is the ANZ has moved independently of the RBA, the banks haven't cut rates in line with the RBA, they don't seem to be listening to anyone, not least the Government. It must be frustrating for the Government that you're not carrying any sway at all with the banks at the moment.
Look, the banks are not going to make their decisions solely based on the views of the government of the day.
But they did when Peter Costello was Treasurer, they at least listened to him.
Well, that's rubbish, that's rubbish. And what Andrew Robb is trying to do today is to say, well, don't ever judge us in the future by the way we have judged the Labor Party in the past. That's actually what he's saying. He's saying, if at some point in the future we're in government, well we need to start to pave the way for why there might be movements outside the cash rate cycle. I just want to make this point about Andrew Robb's comments. If they are comments that have any credibility at all, why has Tony Abbott run away from those comments at a million miles an hour today? They were ham fisted, ill-conceived and frankly, if the Shadow Finance Minister is out there standing up for the big banks ahead of the interests of working people and small businesses, then people are entitled to ask the question - who on the Opposition benches is actually standing up for people who need the support and assistance of their Members of Parliament?
David Bradbury, thanks for your time.
Thanks very much Kieran.