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Don't speculate at homeowner expense, banks told

23 October 2008

Don't speculate at homeowner expense, banks told

Today, as expected, Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard cut the official cash rate by 1%. It was the biggest single movement since the OCR was introduced in 1999.

The big question for 1.3 million Kiwi homeowners paying off a mortgage will be whether they receive a matching reduction in their home interest rates. So far, only Kiwibank has passed on the full 1%.

Most mortgages, however, are held by the Big Four trading banks: ANZ-National, BNZ, Westpac and ASB. They are all Australian-owned.

"On behalf of struggling homeowners, we demand that the big banks follow Kiwibank's lead and reduce their mortgage rates by the Reserve Bank's full 1% interest cut," said Grant Morgan, chair of RAM - Residents Action Movement.

"Their Australian parents refused to do so on 7 October when the Reserve Bank of Australia cut the official interest rate by 1%. Instead, these greedy bankers offered only a 0.8% cut, thus pocketing one-fifth of the benefit at the expense of Aussie homeowners."

"Their New Zealand subsidiaries have done likewise in the past. They will do the same this time too if they think they can get away with it. We need to shame them and stop them from speculating on their position of power over homeowners," said Mr Morgan.

INTEREST RATE SURVEY

Several days ago RAM initiated a financial survey which has so far attracted over 250 responses in Auckland, Wellington and Whangarei.

One of the three survey questions asks: "Do Australian-owned banks in New Zealand charge mortgage interest rates that are too high?"

"90% of respondents replied yes to this question. The survey's interim results indicate that an overwhelming majority of Kiwis think the Big Four banks are interest gouging," said Oliver Woods, co-leader of RAM candidates group and a candidate for Auckland Central.

"RAM is standing in the election to give voice to the voiceless who are being shafted by corporate interests like the big banks," said Mr Woods.

PROTECT OUR PEOPLE CAMPAIGN

RAM is launching a "Protect Our People, Not the Speculators" campaign. Different elements of the campaign include reducing the cost of home loans, removing GST from food, making speculators pay with a Financial Transaction Tax and lifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"RAM's Protect Our People campaign won't end on polling day," said Grant Brookes, co-leader of RAM candidates group and a candidate for Wellington Central.

"We are a people's movement. So after the election, RAM will continue to mobilise the grassroots around things like winning 3% state loans for first-home buyers of modest means, and forging a broad coalition around a referendum petition to remove GST from food," said Mr Brookes.

BACKGROUNDER ON THE BANKS

Here are the Big Four banks in New Zealand and their Australian owners:

ANZ National Bank - owned by Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (Australia). This amalgamation of the ANZ Bank and the National Bank constitutes the biggest banking operation in New Zealand, holding over one-third of home mortgages ($55 billion).

Bank of New Zealand - owned by National Australia Bank. BNZ is the second largest bank in New Zealand as measured on total lending assets.

Westpac- owned by Westpac Banking Group (Australia).

ASB Bank - owned by Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The Big Four banks control 90% of the banking industry in New Zealand, putting them in a near-monopoly position.

The Big Four banks have been hugely profitable. In the 2007 fiscal year, the ANZ-National Bank made an after-tax profit of $1.1 billion. "We expect to make more than a billion dollars profit again in 2008," said ANZ-National chief executive Graham Hodges. (NZPA 28.7.08.)

The BNZ has announced an after-tax profit of $785 million in the 12 months to 30 September 2008. And ASB Bank cornered a $515 million net profit for the 2008 fiscal year.

The Australian owners of the Big Four banks enjoyed a combined after-tax profit of A$15 billion in the last financial year, partly composed of wealth generated by their subsidiaries in New Zealand.

BACKGROUNDER ON RAM

RAM arose in 2003 as an organiser of the Rates Revolt in Auckland. RAM contested Auckland local body elections, winning over 100,000 votes in 2007.

In March 2008, RAM decided to go nationwide and contest parliamentary as well as council elections. RAM organised a GST-off-food petition which attracted 25,000 signatures.

Over the past six months, RAM has recruited over 3,000 party members throughout the country. The RAM party list contains 26 candidates, while eleven are standing for electorate seats. Our website is www.ram.org.nz

ENDS

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