The Federal Government has caught the five major banks off guard with its move to force senior executives to sign confidentiality agreements before releasing the draft major bank tax legislation for examination.
In a statement, the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) has accused the Government of secrecy from the people they claim would be most affected by it, including the public.
Chief executive, Anna Bligh said the banks were shocked by the demand, which would prevent banks from consulting with their boards, customers and their shareholders on the implications of the legislation.
“A bad tax has now become a secret tax,” Bligh said.
“How can Australia’s major banks determine the impacts of this legislation of their senior staff and analysts are in danger of being prosecuted if they speak to stakeholders, the public or the media?”
Treasurer Scott Morrison defended the imposition of a non-disclosure agreement in Facebook post, saying the major banks had made individual submissions to the Government and it had respected requests for confidentiality of submissions, including ensuing comments they may provide.
“It’s a two-way street. The non-disclosure arrangements are used in this case are not an irregular practice for the government when consulting with commercial entities over draft legislation, and have been used recently by the Turnbull Government for the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Laws and the Diverted Profits Tax,” Morrison said.
“The arrangements do not restrict the banks from circulating any material within their organisations, including with their boards or commercial advisers.”
Bligh added the bank tax would raise more than $6 billion over the next four years, which would have significant impacts on banks, their customers, and shareholders.
“The Government has now made it illegal for the bill to be tested in the public sphere. This is likely to lead to highly flawed legislation and further risks unintended consequences on the economy and financial system,” Bligh said.