Transcript: Doorstop Cairns March 15 2019

9.20am | March 20, 2019


FRIDAY, 15 MARCH 2019 
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Banking Fairness Fund, Financial counselling funding. 
ELIDA FAITH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Good morning, my name is Elida Faith and I’m the Labor Candidate for Leichhardt and I’m here today with our Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities Jenny McAllister. Labor has announced that we are going to double financial counsellors that are going to be able to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Now I have spent my working life supporting and advocating for some of the most vulnerable people in my community and when I was a single mum I often struggled to make ends meet so I know how important a service like this would’ve been for me to get a leg up. We’ve seen thousands of people done over by the banks and Labor fought for years for a royal banking commission. And while we were fighting for a royal commission into banking, Warren Entsch was blocking it 26 times. How out of touch can you be with your community?  And I think it’s about time we had a voice in Canberra that’s going to actually fight for our community. And I would like to handover now to Jenny, thank you.
JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES: Thanks very much Elida. The banking royal commission exposed really shocking stories about misconduct by the banks and the consequences for their customers and for the community. Labor know that when a person is in an argument with a big bank they actually need some support and that’s why we’ve announced that we will provide funding to double the number of financial counsellors. Financial counsellors do an incredibly important job. They support people who are facing hardship to negotiate with financial institutions, to negotiate with utilities, to negotiate with, say, a telephone provider, to help them manage their financial circumstances and arrive at a better landing place. And it’s pretty hard to do that on your own. We won’t let customers do this on their own any longer. That’s why we’re establishing the Banking Fairness Fund. We’ll require all of the major banks to make a contribution to this fund. We’ll raise $160 million a year and we’ll apply that to increasing the number of financial counsellors – doubling it from 500 now to 1000 across the community. We’ll increase the number of financial rights lawyers from 40 at the moment to 240. Because if you’re in a tussle with a big financial institution, you shouldn’t be on your own. We met yesterday and we’re meeting again today with the financial counsellors that do such important work here in Far North Queensland. This is an area of real financial need and real hardship. The financial counsellors here see people every day who have difficulty accessing even basic banking services. They see people who have been issued loans or financial products that are totally inappropriate for their personal circumstances. And they help those people – those victims of poor practice – work through their circumstances. Here in Far North Queensland you can wait as many as four weeks to see a financial counsellor, and that’s just for the first appointment. That’s not good enough. We know that just down the road in Townsville, as the impacts of the flooding roll through, we are going to see greater need for services of this kind. This is a vital investment to support people in Far North Queensland and I’m very proud to be here with Elida who is such a strong advocate for people in this area.
JOURNALIST: Not all financial counsellors are free, is there anything more you would be doing to sort of make that more easy, accessible for people who might not be able to pay for services?
MCALLISTER: The financial counsellors that we are seeking to provide will be free. It’s a free and independent service. Someone who is unequivocally on your side. They’re not working for a bank, they’re not getting some secret commission. They are a publicly funded service who provide help for people in need.
JOURNALIST: So how do you intend on getting that money from the big banks? Will it be through a tax or something?
MCALLISTER: We’ve said we’ll impose a levy on those banks which are listed on the ASX100. We’ll raise $160 million through that levy and will apply it to financial counselling, increasing the number of financial rights lawyers, and providing much needed emergency relief for people who are really, really in hard times.