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«COMMERCIAL RADIO INQUIRY Report of the Australian Broadcasting Authority Hearing into Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Limited February 2000 Sydney ISBN 0 642 ...»

-- [ Page 58 ] --

It then goes on to say Mr Buttle said that ‘Some readers of the KPMG survey may have misinterpreted the following paragraph.’ It reproduces a section of the report. ‘This could explain why some reports suggested that the entire $10 billion non-interest income came from fees and charges on personal transaction accounts.’ ‘To the contrary, it is estimated that revenue from fees and charges on Australian personal transaction accounts would not exceed $1.5 billion which is less than 3% of the total income of banks.’ I mean, it was a hell of a mistake. It was a dreadful mistake.

Just one more bit I want to read. Mr Buttle said that the increase in banks fees is ‘consistent with the Wallace,’ - the 1997 Wallace financial system inquiry - ‘recommendations that crosssubstantiation between products by the banks that should be removed resulting in fees reflecting the costs of the bank of providing the service.’ I told you on Tuesday, again on Wednesday, that the stories were wrong. I worked that out by using a bit of common sense. The figures worked out to be more than $600 per customer and that was a total impossibility.

We talked to other people about it apart from the banks. All I had to do was ask the banks to check it and I had the answer I expected. The $10 billion figure was wrong and I said at the time it was an outstanding example of why you need to get the whole story.

And I took a bit of flack because I was one of the only people saying that the story was wrong but I haven’t let that stop me before and I’m not going to let it get in the way now.

I mean, there are plenty of people with egg on their face over this. I wonder how many will be as fast to admit their mistake as they were to jump into the bank-bashing bandwagon. I mean, I’m inclined to do it when I think it’s right and I used to do it a lot and that’s why we decided to get the whole story, simple as that.

I bothered to get the whole story and I’m delighted to say that the story was wrong. Simple as that, start and finish, wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Wrong.1024 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on issues of social and economic relevance to the community, namely the amount that banks had earned from fees and charges during the past year. Mr Laws stated during the broadcast that the issue had caused ‘an incredible public backlash’ and had been commented on extensively by the media, by politicians and by The Australian Consumers’ Association.

The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with Australia Street Consulting to promote Bankers’ Association was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel notes the evidence given by Mr Stewart of the Bankers’ Association to the effect that, in 40 of the 74 scripts for The Whole Story provided to Mr Laws by the Bankers’ Association, on-air disclosure took the form of Mr Laws opening with the words ‘Australia’s banks are giving you the whole story’.1025 The Panel does not accept that this represents an adequate disclosure of the nature of the commercial arrangement between Mr Laws and Australia Street Consulting to promote the Bankers’ Association.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ the broadcast was favourable to the Bankers’ Association. Mr Laws stated, ‘The banks said straight away the figure was wrong but nobody wanted to listen’;1026 ♦ Mr Laws defended the banking industry. Mr Laws said ‘I bothered to get the whole story and I’m delighted to say that the story was wrong. Simple as that, start and finish, wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Wrong’;1027 and ♦ Mr Laws relied upon the script provided by the Bankers’ Association.

The Panel finds that, in the presentation of a current affairs program, Mr Laws presented material in a misleading manner by withholding a relevant available fact, namely the existence of a commercial relationship between himself and the Bankers’ Association.

The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.

–  –  –

STATE TAXES ON BANKING AND THE INTRODUCTION OF

THE GST Material Provided to Mr Laws The material for the live read appears to have been sent to Mr Laws directly from the Bankers’ Association (and from Chris Stewart in particular) on 27 May 1999.1028 The script

is entitled ‘Replacement Live Read: 27 May 1999’.1029 The script reads:

I’m getting more than a little worried about some of the whispers I’m hearing out of Canberra on the negotiations between the Democrats and the Government on the GST.

John Howard, I’m hearing that you are thinking of reneging on the withdrawal of some taxes if you have to exempt food from the GST. Is that what you’re thinking John? Did that come from the Democrats or was that a treasury idea?

I’m hearing that you might be thinking about leaving those awful banking taxes, the Financial Institutions Duty and the Bank Accounts Debit tax in place.

I thought this might happen. I warned about it last week when I heard the first whispers.

FID and BAD are the state taxes we all pay on all our banking transactions. It adds up to more than $2000 million dollars a year.





These are awful taxes because they get you coming and going and they hit the low income earner just as heavily. Every time you write a cheque - even if you’re a pensioner - the State Government takes a slice. Every time your pay or your investment dividends go into your account, the State takes a share.

John Howard, you told the electorate that FID and BAD would go under a GST. You can’t turn around now and change your mind.

You talk about a mandate - you can’t pick and chose what your mandate includes. You can’t say: ‘The electorate voted for our GST package’ and then change the package.

–  –  –

Now we know that lots of things go on the table during these sorts of negotiations - most don’t get through. Can I suggest to the Democrats and the Government that both sides pick this idea up and throw it in the bin where it belongs.

If you walk out of the negotiations and banking taxes are still in place you have both let us down … and let us down badly … and you can expect people to be angry.

Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 27 May 1999, Mr Laws broadcast the following statement:

–  –  –

I’m getting more than a little worried about some of the whispers I’m hearing out of Canberra on the negotiations between the Democrats and the Government on the GST and I think many of us are.

John Howard, I’m hearing that you are thinking of reneging on the withdrawal of some of the taxes if you’ve got to exempt food from the GST. Is this right? Is what we’re hearing correct here? Did that come from the Democrats or was that a treasury idea? Could you tell us?

I’m also hearing that John Howard might be thinking about leaving those awful banking taxes, the Financial Institutions Duty and the Bank Accounts Debit tax in place.

I thought it might happen I’ve got to say. I warned about it last week when I heard the first whispers.

FID and BAD are the state taxes we all pay on our banking transactions and that adds up to more than $2000 million dollars a year and that as we said before is a lot of money but they’re the state taxes.

They’re awful taxes because they’ve got you coming and going and they hit the low-income earner just as heavily as they hit everybody else. Every time you write a cheque - even if you’re a pensioner - the State Government takes a bit of that money, not the bank the State Government. Every time your pay or your investment dividends go into your account, the State takes a share of that too.

Now John Howard, you did tell the electorate that FID and BAD would go under a GST. You really couldn’t change your mind now and retain credibility could you?

I mean you talk about a mandate – you can’t pick and chose what bits of the mandate you want You can’t say: ‘The electorate voted for our GST package’ and then change the package. You can’t do that.

The average bank customer pays about $50 a year in FID and BAD and you said you were going to scrap that and we believed you.

Now we know that lots of things go on the table during these sorts of negotiations – and a lot don’t get through. Could I suggest to the Democrats and to the Government - both sides pick this idea up and throw it in the bin where it belongs because it would be cruel – I mean.

If you walk out of the negotiations and banking taxes are still in place you’ve both let us down … and you’ve let us down badly … and you can expect the people to rightly be angry.1030 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on issues of political, social and economic relevance to the community, namely the possible reneging by the Government on its promise to abolish certain banking taxes (Financial Institutions Duty and Bank Accounts Debit tax) as part of the GST package.

The Panel notes the evidence given by Mr Stewart of the Bankers’ Association to the effect that, in 40 of the 74 scripts for The Whole Story provided to Mr Laws by the Bankers’ Association, on-air disclosure took the form of Mr Laws opening with the words ‘Australia’s banks are giving you the whole story’.1031 The Panel does not accept that this represents an Transcript, of Exhibit 71.

Transcript, Mr Stewart, pp. 110-111.

adequate disclosure of the nature of the commercial arrangement between Mr Laws and Australia Street Consulting to promote the Bankers’ Association.

The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with Australia Street Consulting to promote Bankers’ Association was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ Mr Laws defended the banking industry in relation to the confusion between taxes and bank charges. Mr Laws says ‘Every time you write a cheque - even if you’re a pensioner

- the State Government takes a bit of that money, not the bank the State Government’;1032 and ♦ Mr Laws relied upon the script provided by the Bankers’ Association.

The Panel finds that, in the presentation of a current affairs program, Mr Laws presented material in a misleading manner by withholding a relevant available fact, namely the existence of a commercial relationship between himself and the Bankers’ Association.

The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.

RAMS Home Loans Pty Limited The Panel notes that Mr Laws was aware of the existence of his commercial relationship with RAMS Home Loans Pty Limited (see ‘Mr Laws’ Agreements and His On-Air Conduct‘ on page 47).

INTEREST RATE CUT

Material Provided to Mr Laws The following live read script, dated 1 August 1997 and entitled ‘Interest rate cut’, was

provided to Mr Laws by RAMS:

–  –  –

They’re very quick to trumpet the fact that there are now very low home loan interest rates out there. The lowest for what, 30 years or more?

We’ve just had the fifth official interest rate cut in 12 months. Half a percent. Happened last week.

–  –  –

Well, some of them didn’t pass on the full half a percent.

Transcript, of Exhibit 71.

And some of them have the cheek to apply the cut to their no-frills, very basic home loans, or home loans that lock you in for years.

The Commonwealth dropped its standard variable rate by only 0.4 percent, and they dropped their ‘Economiser’ loan by an even smaller amount.

–  –  –

Now, this is the bank that used to be the people’s bank…it’s now, of course, privatised – owned by shareholders. The Commonwealth Bank made a great song and dance a few months back when it cut its rates ahead of everyone else.

But now it seems like – with a snip here and a clip there – it wants to gather back all those profits. It’s companies like RAMS Home Loans who have been consistent in all this.

There was a feature in the Sydney Morning Herald last week and they described the RAMS Better Home Loan … compared it with what the banks were offering … they described it as … ‘One of the better loans with extra features.’ And RAMS, as you are no doubt aware … and as Peter Costello made mention of the other day on television … RAMS passed on the full half percent cut.

Straight away. Made the announcement the day the official rate cut was announced by the Reserve Bank.

Now, unless you want to be tied up and locked into a home loan with a bank and take your chances on how much and how quickly they’ll move, and what monthly fees you might have to pay, you’re really better off calling RAMS to compare.

On top of everything else, RAMS charges no monthly fees. None. And that’s one thing they’ve always said: RAMS are happy for you to call the banks and compare their terms.

So if you’re looking at the market now and want to get yourself a better home, my advice is to get a better home loan too. Give RAMS a call.1033 2UE’s Submissions to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by Mr Laws, Mr Laws made the following

submissions in relation to this broadcast:

There is insufficient evidence of the content of the broadcast.

The broadcast, if it occurred, is a paid advertisement.

Code of Practice 2 does not apply to paid advertising.1034 RAMS.0008.0120 Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, H2 The Panel’s Findings A document, entitled ‘RAMS Marketing and Advertising Report – Media Advertising Activity’ indicates that on 1 August 1997 Mr Laws broadcast the live-read script entitled ‘Interest Rate Cut’.1035 Mr Greg Jones of RAMS gave evidence that:



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