Truculent banks facing political fait accompli

The chairman of the National Australia Bank (NAB), former Treasury secretary, Ken Henry, has joined the chorus of major bank voices opposing the Government’s proposed bank levy, describing it as step back to the policy-making of the 1980s.

Henry, the author of the so-called Henry tax review commissioned by the former Rudd Labor Government, is urging a full public inquiry into the levy echoing the claims of NAB chief executive, Andrew Thorburn, that the cost of the levy will inevitably be passed on to customers.

He dismissed the levy proposal as a return to 1980s policy-thinking.

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However despite the former Treasury secretary’s credentials and arguments, implementation of the bank levy has become almost a foregone conclusion with the Federal Opposition Treasury spokesman, Chris Bowen, confirming on national television last night that the Australian Labor Party would be supporting the Budget measure.

Henry’s very public statements about the proposed bank levy have come as the major banks have provided submissions to Treasury giving their reasons for opposing the move, with most of those submissions being provided under covering letters from the major bank chief executives.

Almost without exception, the submissions have argued the extremely high likelihood of the cost of the levy being passed on to bank customers.

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Wasn't Mr Henry in Treasury when the recommended the mining profits tax? That measure only targeted one industry, so is that a precedent/

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