WITH THE AUSTRALIAN comeback underway, executives from Australia’s four major banks will appear before the House Economics Committee at public hearings on Thursday and Friday this week to discuss their response to the pandemic, the direction of the housing market, small business lending, and their progress implementing the Hayne Royal Commission recommendations.

Chair of the House of Representatives Economics Committee, Tim Wilson MP, said, "With the phasing out of taxpayer-funded COVID-19 support and mortgage deferrals, we are keen to hear what the initial data is showing on the recovery of the economy and household balance sheets.

"Surging property prices, fuelled by historically low interest rates, have left many Australian first home buyers high and dry. Many young families are forced to save larger deposits while also paying increasingly higher rents. The committee will discuss the role of banks in empowering hard-working Australians to purchase property and invest in their future," Mr Wilson said.

The hearings will also examine the four major banks’ progress in implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

"It is disappointing that compliance issues regarding unconscionable conduct and misrepresentations over fees continue to come to light," Mr Wilson said. "These behaviours erode the community’s trust in financial institutions.

"These hearings give the committee an opportunity to follow up on how they can be prevented in the future so that the industry can regain the community’s trust," Mr Wilson said.

For more information about the hearings, or to read transcripts from previous hearings, you can visit the committee’s website.

Public hearing details

Date: Thursday, 15 April 2021
Time: 9.15am to 4.15pm
Witnesses: CBA, Westpac

Date: Friday, 16 April 2021
Time: 9.15am to 4.15pm
Witnesses: NAB, ANZ

Due to health and safety concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, this hearing is not currently scheduled to be open for public attendance. Interested members of the public will be able to view proceedings via the live webcast at aph.gov.au/live.

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson has welcomed the government’s proposed reforms to the Franchising Code of Conduct, including changes specific to the automotive industry.

Under the proposed amendments to franchising laws, big businesses will face penalties of up to $10 million for wilful, egregious and systemic breaches of their obligations under the Franchising Code.

The suite of reforms seeks to specifically mitigate the power imbalance between multinational car manufacturers and Australian dealers.

“These proposed changes represent significant progress and once passed, will go a long way to levelling the playing field in the automotive franchising sector,” Mr Billson said.

”They will ensure that franchise-like arrangements where dealers are operating as the car-maker’s new vehicle sales agent still benefit from the Franchising Code protections.

“The changes that apply to the automotive industry are welcome as is the government’s commitment to continue working with the automotive franchising sector to examine unfair contract terms in their agreements," Mr Billson said.

“A mandatory best practice framework will help address the ongoing issue of multinational car manufacturers who fail to follow the current voluntary principles.  Examples of small car dealers being devastated by the actions of multinational manufacturers in recent years has warranted this action.

“Higher fines for significant breaches of the Franchising Code will act as a big stick that will force the larger players to think twice before acting unfairly towards their franchisees.

“We also welcome the government’s interest in exploring arbitration to provide small businesses with access to binding and right-sized dispute resolution pathways that are less costly and faster than going through the court system – a theme pursued in our Access to Justice report," he said.

“My office looks forward to seeing the detail of this announcement and has been pleased to see the bipartisan support for the much-needed reforms to the franchising sector.     

“I continue to encourage franchisees who believe they have been unfairly treated by a franchisor or are engaged in a franchise dispute to contact my office for assistance.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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THE Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will hold a public hearing on Tuesday April 13 in Canberra to examine recent worrying developments in Myanmar in greater depth, and to hear from concerned sectors of Australian society about the troubling direction Myanmar has taken since the military coup of February 1.

Chair of the subcommittee, Dave Sharma MP, said, “More than 60 individuals and organisations responded to our call for expressions of interest to participate in the public hearing. There is clearly a high degree of community concern within Australia about the escalating violence and rising death toll in Myanmar, and the increasingly inhumane behaviour of the military leadership there."

Deputy Chair Julian Hill MP said,"The response from across the community has been overwhelming. On Tuesday the subcommittee will hear from individuals and organisations part of the Myanmar diaspora and community, government departments, and other experts.”

The program has been published on the Committee’s website.

The public hearing is being held with limited numbers in a controlled and COVID safe manner. The hearing will be broadcast, and can be viewed through the APH website.

Public hearing details

Date: Tuesday 13 April 2021
Time: 9.30am to 4pm AEST
Location: Main Committee Room, Parliament House, Canberra

9.30am: Open
9.30am–10.30am: Government Departments
10.45am–12.30pm: Diaspora, community groups and individuals
1.15pm–2.30pm: Experts, academics and NGOs
2.40pm–4pm: Experts, academics and NGOs
4pm: Close

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

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THE Joint Standing Committee on Migration will hold a public hearing in Sydney on Monday April 12 at the NSW Parliament.

Committee Chair Julian Leeser MP said, "Following the tabling of the interim report on 18 March 2021, the focus of the committee will be the remaining terms of reference such as the skills lists, the administrative requirements for Australian businesses and the complexity of Australia’s skilled migration program.

"Australia has always been an attractive destination for migrants and the current challenge is to ensure that we can streamline processes to make it easier for Australian businesses to find and hire the skilled workers they need," Mr Leeser said.

"Hearing from the peak associations as well as their small businesses will assist the committee in its consideration of the issues at all levels."

More details on the inquiry and the hearing program are available on the Committee website.

Public hearing details

Date: Monday 12 April 2021
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: Macquarie Room, NSW Parliament (not open to the public)

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

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THE Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth recently commenced an Inquiry into the prudential regulation of investment in Australia’s export industries. 

The inquiry is investigating the potential impact of changes in practices by banks, insurers and superannuation funds, as well as the advice and guidance provided by financial regulators, on the investment opportunities for Australian exporters.

Committee Chair, George Christensen MP, said the committee was particularly interested in hearing from businesses that have experienced difficulty in sourcing funding or insurance for their export businesses.

‘It is vital that the committee hear how changes in practices or guidance from financial institutions and regulators may impact on Australia’s exporting businesses, in sectors such as resources, agriculture and services. Businesses should be reassured that they can make a submission confidentially, and we can also arrange for hearings to be held in private."

Submissions from interested individuals, businesses and organisations are invited by Friday, April 30, 2021. Requests can be made for a submission to be kept confidential, or to be published with a name withheld if required.

More information about the inquiry, including the full terms of reference and further details on how to lodge a submission, is available on the committee’s webpage. The preferred method of receiving submissions is by electronic format lodged online using a My Parliament account.

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