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Time For Better Banking? New Survey Gives Customers Their Say

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Time For Better Banking? New Survey Gives Customers Their Say

The Finance Sector Union in Australia and Finsec in New Zealand are teaming up to give customers and workers on both sides of the Tasman a chance to say what they think of the state of banking down under.

The two unions are launching a major public survey for Australians and New Zealanders to say how they would like to see banking improved.

The new survey, hosted on www.better-banking.org, couldn't be more timely. Consumer debt is soaring, interest rates are going up, more jobs are being sent offshore and banks show no signs of embracing better banking soon. Governments show no signs of requiring it, either.

"Bank workers are committed to better banking. But consumers might not know that even basic salary increases are routinely tied to meeting aggressive sales targets for high-debt products like credit cards," said Leon Carter, the FSU's National Secretary.

"With interest rates going up and banks showing less respect for Reserve Bank decisions, it's time to ask why consumer debt is so high and what can be done."

Australians and New Zealanders owe more than $50 billion on credit cardsup from about $14 billion in 1999. Over the same period, the gap between Reserve Bank rates and mortgage rates has grown 57 per cent in Australia. In New Zealand, the gap has grown by 87 per cent.

On both sides of the Tasman, the ratio of household debt to disposable income has soared to about 160 per cent. In 2009, Australian consumer debt exceeded GDP for the first time.

"Loading people up with debt they can't afford can't go on forever," said Andrew Casidy, Finsec's General Secretary. "With this survey, we want to help explain why the debt crisis is so bad and work with consumers to wake up governments to fix it."

Mr Casidy said bank workers don't want to push endless debt onto consumers who can't pay. And that they share consumers' concerns over sky-high executive salaries that reward short-term thinking.

"Whether it's sending another job abroad or loading another family up with debt they can't afford, the banking sector needs change. Because the way we're going is not sustainable," he said.

Mr Carter noted the irony in major banks like ANZ and NAB spending millions on promoting how un-bank-like they are, while continuing to do exactly what makes people angry at banks.

"Something is wrong when banks and governments keep talking about how badly banks behave but do nothing to change it," he said. "We look forward to showing what consumers and workers really think to Prime Ministers and CEOsbecause the time for better banking is now."

For more information on bad banking practices and what to do to fix them, visit www.better-banking.org. The survey is expected to run until April 26.

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