Monday 25 Jun 2018

Responsible Lending Roadshow - Canberra

By: Eleanor Mason

On Monday 25th June, I was involved in a delegation of fair finance advocates, lawyers, clients and others that travelled to Canberra – 32 people in six teams for 43 meetings with MPs, Ministers and Senators.

Fair Finance signs, parliamentary passes, tears, hugs, half drank cups of teas and coffees, photos, media, press conference, policy, politics, professionalism, laughs, back entrance to Parliament, parliamentary passes (yes, said it again) and a sense of being listened to - an incredible, and CALC-termed, “wildly successful” day!

Co-ordinated by Consumer Action and timed with the Royal Commission, our brief was reform recommendations which included the following:

  • Raise standards for mortgage brokers, requiring them to act in best interests of the consumer to find a loan that is not unsuitable, moving to fee for service model
  • Improve remedies for victims in cases of irresponsible lending - generally the lender is returned to their original position and the borrower may lose everything
  • More power to ASIC and tougher remedies
  • DADO (Design And Distribution Obligations) for consumer credit to ensure financial products are targeted at the right people

We also pushed the SACC law reform and consumer leases.

It felt like we were listened to!

The goal was to be remembered in these meetings, given so many lobbyists pass through parliament offices – and of course our banking/loan shark friends are also there lobbying to buck such reforms.

We did leave an impression, particularly from the community member who came along to tell her story directly, and was an absolutely brave champion.

Amidst tears, frustration and hope, she told her story of irresponsible lending and family violence for her own healing, and as an advocate for systemic change.

We nailed the stories in a passionate delivery of the lived-experience of the consumer, alongside evidence. We explained barriers encountered in the complaint process, including one deemed a narcissistic narrative produced by a major bank from a responsible lending complaint.

We truly worked as a team, with leaders navigating the long hallways (complex logisitics!) and introducing our brief. We threw to Consumer Action for any tricky policy questions and in each meeting we delivered a hand written note from Fiona Guthrie to request a politician to visit a financial counsellor to experience a day in the life.

Back at home, we are taking it to the offices of the local MPs we missed out on meeting.

We left our over-zealous social justice footprint in the halls of Parliament and I hope we spoke for every financial counsellor, advocate and other industry members when we told it as we see it.

We spoke directly about the personal impact of irresponsible lending and what we see in households – from school children not having lunch, to homeless persons paying their credit cards, to social isolation for the pensioner who misses the barbeque because it is a luxury to buy food and drinks to take.

I share this experience in the hope that it spurs us all on through the tough days – we are making noise together through people power!

Consumer Action reinforced that we have some of the best responsible lending laws in the world – the problem is we’re not enforcing them.


Eleanor Mason

Salvation Army Geelong


Click here to check out #FairFinance on Twitter and see all the pics from the trip.