2 November 2017
Transcript - #2017210, 2017

Doorstop interview, Melbourne

SUBJECTS: Mandating Comprehensive Credit Reporting; FinTech Bridge with the United Kingdom; Address to FinTech Australia Collab/Collide Summit; citizenship

TREASURER:

Today is a good day for customers. Today is a great day for customers, particularly in our banking and financial system. For those who keep up with their payments, for those who have done the right thing, today means in the future they are going to get an even better deal. We already have a system in this country of negative credit reporting but if you have got a good history you are not getting the good deals for having that good history. Also, if you are someone who in the past may have struggled but you have been able to get back on your feet and you have been able to get your positive credit history in the right space there is going to be opportunities for you too. Ensuring our banking system is competitive is about having changes like the ones that I have announced today. When customers are stronger, when they have more power, when they have the ability for what they bring to the table as a customer in the market, when they have that it is good for them because it means they get a better deal. That is what a more competitive market is, that is the reality of what it means for us every day. We all interact with the banking system every single day. What I am about as Treasurer is about making sure that banking customers get a better deal. That is why I am working to make the banking system stronger. That is why the Turnbull Government is making sure that the banking system is more accountable. That it is fairer and that it is of course more competitive. What we are seeing here with FinTech, what we are seeing here with financial services changes is all about getting better products, better services at better prices for customers, for Australians to go about their daily lives in a way that is better for them and their family.

So, it is an exciting day from that point of view, I have also announced today, in addition to comprehensive credit reporting being mandated from 1 July next year, our FinTech Bridge we are building with the United Kingdom. That is another way to plug us in to ensure we are there with the rest of the world at being in the forefront of how these changes can be utilised and taken advantage of here in Australia. We are at the leading edge of this, we are right up there at the leading edge of this and what you are seeing around this forum here today is some of the world's best practitioners and they're Aussies and they are really punching well above their weight, which is no surprise to us but the Government has their back and we are backing them in.

QUESTION:

Four of the five biggest companies in Australia are banks. The banks' market capitalisation per capita is off the charts compared to the world. Do you think the big four banks in this country are too powerful?

TREASURER:

I think what is needed is more competition and I think what we are doing today delivers that. The banks are big and they are not perfect and they don't deliver all the things Australians want. They deliver many things Australians do want. The fact that our banking system is strong, that it is well capitalised, is a major asset for Australia. I should underscore that. One of the reasons that Australia's economy has continued to perform well, one of the reasons we haven't had a recession in 26 years is because our banking system is so strong. So, a strong banking system is an asset but a competitively strong banking system is even better. So what we are talking about here is freeing up the financial system to go and offer these new products and services in competition with the big banks. In some cases the banks will collaborate. In other cases they will be direct competitors to the disrupters – it's all good. And it is all good because it's all good for Australians, customers and families because at the end of the day they are the point. They are the point.

QUESTION:

Just on that, any thoughts on the rise of the entry of global technology providers like Google and Apple into banking and financial services in Australia, if that were to happen?

TREASURER:

Well, we do need to keep a close watch on this. When I was recently at the G20 in Washington, where we have talked a lot about the impact of digitisation on the world economy and what that means for tax bases, already you know that in Australia, with multinationals we have introduced the toughest multinational tax avoidance laws anywhere in the world. We have just recently had the diverted profits tax start here in Australia. That was all about how multinationals are structured; like Google, like Facebook, like all of these guys and they have been restructuring their own tax arrangements and their structures to now comply with our tax laws. But the other issue goes to competition policy. You have these behemoths roaming the earth, we talked about in Washington and we need to collaborate more in forums like the G20 and bilaterally to ensure our competition laws at a global level are up to speed to ensure that we take the advantages of what these revolutions are providing but we are also very conscious of some of the impacts at the same time.

QUESTION:

Was Stephen Parry asked before last week if his citizenship was in order and if he was what did he say?

TREASURER:

I have no idea. I haven't had a discussion with Stephen Parry or anyone else who may or may not have had a conversation with him. Seeing you have raised the subject of citizenship – I think it is time to take a reality check on this thing. Australians are more interested in their jobs than people's genealogies. The idea that somehow we need to set up 'The Office of the Public Genealogist' I think is getting a bit ridiculous. Australians are interested in their jobs. They are interested in the strength of the economy. They are interested in having lower energy prices. While ancestory.com is a great interest to many Australians it isn't the public burning issue of importance in our economy or our society. What is important is as a government that we focus on these issues. The reason I think Bill Shorten would be a disaster for Australia has nothing to do with his genealogy. It has to do with the $150 billion worth of taxes he wants to put on the Australian economy. That is what is the concern. I think we need to be getting a grip on this, I think we need to put it in perspective. The High Court decision, the issues that have come up this year have been very surprising, they've been very disruptive but at the end of the day, let's not forget why the Parliament's there, and why the Government's there. And it isn't to run some sort of reality television show about 'Who Do You Think You Are?'. It is about actually the job of government and the Turnbull Government is focused on that.

QUESTION:

I think a lot of Australians are concerned that they've been voting for members of Parliament who aren't qualified to be there.

TREASURER:

No, Australians are concerned about their jobs. Australians are concerned about their energy prices. Australians are concerned about what the future of the economy is going to be and where their kids should be studying and what courses they should be taking and, based on what we're seeing here, financial services and technology and code – all of these are a very good idea so STEM education is really important. Frankly, I'm more interested about what's happening in the Australian economy. I'm more concerned about the Labor party's negative policies for our economy than I am about anybody's genealogy.

QUESTION:

But any of the companies here, if they had a number of their employees weren't qualified to do the roles that they were doing, they would have an audit. Why can't the Australian people…

TREASURER:

I don't support the idea of the Office of the Public Genealogist, okay? I believe that parliamentary members have responsibility to ensure they comply with the requirements of being a parliamentarian, and there are many. There isn't just this one. We have to keep a public register of our disclosure of interests. We have to make sure that we don't hold an office of profit under the Crown. There are many obligations that parliamentary members have to comply with and they should, and we should get on with the job of running the country, rather than being in some sort of 'ancestry.com' obsession.

QUESTION:

But if you follow that line of reasoning, shouldn't Stephen Parry ought to have known that he wasn't qualified to be in the role that he was, shouldn't he have referred himself to the High Court much sooner?

TREASURER:

Stephen Parry has resigned from the Senate and he self-identified and he has come forward and he has dealt with it. So, move on.

[INAUDIBLE QUESTION]

TREASURER:

I just don't share your obsession with genealogy. I encourage the media to join my obsession with people getting jobs. Last year, we had the strongest growth in full-time jobs in 40 years – 316,000 Australians got a full-time job last year. That is far more interesting to me than anybody's genealogy.

QUESTION:

Returning to FinTech, one of the reasons that currencies have value is because people can pay taxes with them. So, the Australian dollar will always have some residual value because I can pay my taxes with it. Cryptocurrencies don't have that, though, so I was just wondering – and I realise that this is an outrageous question – are there any plans in the works to allow Australians to pay their taxes with bitcoin?

TREASURER:

No, there's not. There's not presently. This is an area where, understandably, there is a lot of fascination. There's been a lot of speculation around cryptocurrencies – particularly with Bitcoin – and it got a lot of attention at the recent meetings in Washington and a lot of countries are seeking to understand its implications. There are very real issues around international security and the use of cryptocurrencies. The ability to have financial transactions without fingerprints obviously presents security risks and we need to be conscious of those, but at the same time as we've done as a Government, we're not going to levy GST on cryptocurrencies. We're not going to tax people twice. So I think there's a mixture of common sense and understanding risks around those things. Let's not forget that cryptocurrencies currently are a very, very small portion of what's happening in terms of world transactions. And in many cases, they developed because of the lack of advanced payments platforms in many developing countries and the exchange of monies between jurisdictions. In some cases, we know – for quite nefarious reasons – but in other cases, to avoid corruption itself and to have a certainty about the value of an exchange. So, there's a long way to go on this and what I'm encouraged by is that governments around the world are watching this closely, watching it – I suppose – sceptically at the same time. At the end of the day, you don't need a cryptocurrency to have digital transactions and with our new payments platform next year – the UK showed this some time ago – real time payments is something that the modern financial services economy needs, and Australia will be getting it. These issues will continue to develop and progress and I think we just need to be understanding and constantly learning about what the implications are. At this stage, I don't think it's presenting any great risks but it hasn't reached scalability or isn't looking like it at the moment but that can change. Okay, thanks very much.