Westpac’s chief financial officer Peter King (centre) meeting Treasury officials at the federal treasury offices in Sydney for a briefing on the bank tax announced in the federal budget on Tuesday evening. Hollie Adams/The Australian.
The banks are split on how to handle the war with Canberra, with ANZ warning the rest of the banks to tread easily and some others wanting to launch a full campaign based around shareholders.
Unlike the miners in 2010, who got rid of the Rudd government, the banks face a situation where, if they won and got rid of Malcolm Turnbull, the alternative is Bill Shorten who wants a Royal Commission.
The banks meet today with Treasury officials to get the fine details on the new levy plans and have until just 5pm tomorrow to respond to any issues.
They are unimpressed at the short turnaround on top of the lack of prior consultation.
The banks have no friends in Canberra and to be frank few around town either, which makes any populist campaign tough.
Given the complexities the banks have a point and Canberra’s attitude is frankly wrong.
This said it is now time to draw a line in the sand.
The trouble with taxes is once in place they are easy to increase.
The danger for all big business is that Canberra’s anti-bank move is just a small step from anti-big business, and neither have much in the way of popular support.
This means other big businesses, from the supermarkets to Telstra, need to be prepared.
The banks will get through this week and the Treasury briefings before working out the plan of attack.
A shareholder campaign is favoured by the more vocal opponents like NAB and Westpac but the trouble is most shareholders are customers and they also have their issues with the banks.
Politicians like nothing better than attacking a sector which is less popular than them, which is why banks are an easy target.
The $22 million mining industry campaign was different because it was against one side of politics, was an industry with no direct customers in Australia and was clearly associated with economic prosperity and the survival of several towns.
Banks are clearly associated with economic prosperity and that is their only form of attack.
Suffice it to say reputation issues are a long-term problem but the industry needs to ensure it handles the inevitable snafus that it will face with a lot more finesse than it has in the past.