Banks call for consistent laws to prevent elder abuse

Australian banks are urging state and territory governments to adopt consistent power of attorney laws to prevent elder financial abuse, as they meet today to consider a scope for a national register of power of attorney instruments.

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) had called on governments across Australia to establish: 

  1. Power of attorney laws which were the same across the country and protect people from this kind of abuse;
  2. A National Power of Attorney (POA) register to check if POA documents are legitimate and current; and
  3. A place to report abuse in each state that could investigate and act. 

Anna Bligh, ABA chief executive, said elder financial abuse was a serious and far-reaching problem and the meeting presented an opportunity to get this right.

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“Elderly customers and those with a disability are most at risk – nationally-consistent laws are vital in order to protect these customers,” Bligh said. 

This followed the 2017 recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report into elder abuse, and a commitment by Attorneys-General in 2019 to set baseline minimum standards for power of attorneys and create a mandatory national online register for powers of attorney. 

“It's high time that this important reform was delivered,” Bligh said.

Currently, power of attorney laws and their protections were different in each state and territory and lacked a register to track who had power of attorney over whom. 

The introduction of a register was meant to assist in safeguarding older and vulnerable people’s financial status by providing a reliable single source of information to verify the authenticity and currency of an instrument.  

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