Monday, December 07, 2009

So Westpac flew all these community representatives to Sydney for a meeting, then...

Westpac has been hit by fresh resignations from its Community Consultative Council in the wake of the double-sized mortgage rate hike delivered just one day after a round table discussion about financial hardship.

The defections came as Australia's chief ecompetition regulator told the ABC he was now not sure he would allow Westpac to take over St George if the application came before him again.

Citing "insincerity" the Finance Sector Union's Rod Masson and the ACTU's Sharan Burrow wrote to Westpac Friday saying it was "galling" that a bank's retail chief had purported to consult the Council about financial hardship less than a day before announcing a near-doubling the Reserve Bank's rate hike.

"The meeting was chaired by Peter Hanlon, the executive who less than 24 hours later announced the double hike," Mr Masson told the Herlad/Age. "We discussed the impact the Reserve Bank hikes would have on people who had lost their jobs and suffered reduced hours. Sharan articulated our points clearly and there were lots of smiles and nods around table"...

"It was pretty disrespectful if you ask me. He must have known what Westpac was planning but didn't try to make the argument."

"We will stay in the ANZ and the National Australia Bank's stakeholder forums, but not Westpac's - not after this."

The Finance Sector Union and the Council of Trades Unions are the second and third groups to have withdrawn from Westpac Community Consultative Council after the consumer group Choice which left about two years ago. Over the weekend Westpac's website was updated to remove reference to all three. Continuing members of the Counil include the Smith Family, Mission Australia and the St James Ethics Centre.

"Westpac is disappointed," said spokesman David Lording. "But we respect that sometimes opinions diverge."

ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel told the ABC's Inside Business banks such as Westpac faced less competition and found it easier to push up rates. While his decision to allow Westpac to acquire St George last year was the right at the time he was not sure it would be right today.

"You might ask that if Westpac were to seek to acquire St George today, rather than prior to the global financial crisis, whether we'd have the same view as what we had back then. I don't know the answer to that, but I raise it as a question," he said.

Published in today's SMH

ACTU FSU Letter to Westpac

Westpac's shrinking consultation website 

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