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Transcript – Anna Bligh interview with ABC Breakfast News’ Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar on online gambling inquiry and RBA rates hold

5 April 2023

LISA MILLAR: In today’s stories,  a parliamentary inquiry has heard that more than half a million Australians have asked their bank to freeze them out of gambling transactions. 

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The so called self-veto technology has been gradually rolled out by the banking industry, and a national self-exclusion register BetStop is set to be launched in coming months. We’re joined now by the Chief Executive of the Australian Banking Association, Anna Bligh, from Sydney. Anna, very good morning to you. These numbers are quite extraordinary because your association, the banks, really haven’t advertised this had they to people who are concerned about gambling. 

ANNA BLIGH: Well, banks have been advising their customers in a variety of ways through their aps online and also other organisations like financial counsellors. If somebody comes to them in financial difficulty, they can help them set up one of these vetoes. It’s not a difficult thing to do, but I do think you’re right, it is surprising that there are just over half a million Australians at our best estimate. It’s actually 770,000 cards. And, of course, some customers have more than one card or debit card and a credit card and that’s from the four major banks and Bendigo Bank that data. So I think we can assume that across the rest of the banking sector, there’s probably more. And that certainly tells you something about people wanting to do more to control their gambling and to make sure they don’t end up in financial problems because of it. 

I should say these vetoes are on online gambling, gambling in the virtual world. In pokie machines, pubs, clubs, casinos, TABs, you haven’t been able to use a credit card to gamble in the physical world for more than two decades

ABA CEO, Anna Bligh

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Indeed and extending that, what does it say to you, just taking those figures alone from the four majors and Bendigo, about how prevalent problem gambling is in Australia? 

ANNA BLIGH: Well, I think it probably tells all of us that there’s a lot of Australians who are worried about being able to fully control themselves in an online gambling environment, I should say these vetoes are on online gambling, gambling in the virtual world. In pokie machines, pubs, clubs, casinos, TABs, you haven’t been able to use a credit card to gamble in the physical world for more than two decades. It is in the online gambling world that unfortunately credit cards are still allowed to be used. The Australian Banking Association’s view and the one we put to the inquiry is very much that credit cards should not be used for gambling, that you shouldn’t be getting into debt with gambling, and that the government should move to require those gambling operators to put a block on credit card use in their services. You shouldn’t be able to do in the virtual world what you can’t do in the physical world in this area of activity in our view. 

There are about 2400 Australians refinancing their mortgage literally every working day at the moment. It is the highest rates of refinancing that we’ve ever seen.

ABA CEO, Anna Bligh

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Indeed, we’ll see how the government acts if it does act on that. A very serious concern. Switching topics before we go, of course the RBA board paused the interest rate hike cycle yesterday. We do know that a lot of Australians are suffering severe mortgage stress. How has it been for the banks in terms of customers coming into the major banks, the smaller banks ask them to refinance or worst case scenario, simply because of these rate rises, the aggressive pace of them, and the fact that the banks have passed them on in full, not being able to service their mortgages? 

ANNA BLIGH: Well, firstly, I’d say I think Australian mortgage holders breathed a sigh of relief yesterday. Many of them will be starting to feel a lot of pinch on paying their mortgage. What I can say is that the refinancing market in Australia at the moment is very, very hot. There are about 2400 Australians refinancing their mortgage literally every working day at the moment. It is the highest rates of refinancing that we’ve ever seen. And what that tells me is that people are looking for a better deal. They are starting to feel those interest rate hikes. And they’re out there in the market, with either their own bank, or about two thirds of those people refinancing are doing it with another lender, so they’re leaving their bank and going somewhere else to get a better deal. And about a third are refinancing and getting a better deal with their own bank. So that tells you it’s worth asking for a better deal. But I think encouragingly at this point, banks are not seeing any significant uplift in people who are unable to make their payments on their mortgage. There is a slight increase starting to emerge with people struggling to pay credit cards and personal loans.  

Not surprisingly Australians will pay their mortgage first, and then squeeze their belt on everything else. But banks are very mindful that there’s still a long way for this to play out. And they’re very, very aware that customers at the moment might be paying their mortgage and finding it a bit squeezy, but by the end of this year, they might actually be in a very difficult situation. So they’ve got teams of people ready, people who are very experienced in these circumstances, and they’ve got very practical tools in their toolkit: restructuring of loans, offering deferrals of payments, moving to a period of interest only. These are practical ways to get people through a prolonged period of high interest rates if needed. And the best thing you can do is talk to a bank early. 

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Anna Bligh from the Australian Banking Association. Appreciate your time this morning. Thank you. 

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