30 Jun 2017

Andrew Hagger, South Australia Bank Tax

Andrew Hagger
NAB Chief Customer Officer, Consumer Banking and Wealth

As published in the Adelaide Advertiser 30 June 2017.

I am a passionate and proud South Australian. Born and bred in Adelaide, my parents still live in the house I grew up in in the Adelaide Hills. I care deeply about the South Australian economy, and as Chief Customer Officer at NAB, I bring the voice of South Australia to everything we do.

South Australia’s economy is in transition. Some major industries are exiting, others are on hold, and new growth sectors – tourism, defence, and education – will take time. Time and investment.

There are real opportunities for South Australia. But for those opportunities to be realised, banks like NAB have an important role to play. To fuel the economy, and to help create jobs.

NAB has more than 240,000 South Australian customers, we support 55,000 local businesses, and we use local business suppliers. We employ more than 700 South Australians at around 50 retail branches and business centres across the state. We provide dividends to 34,000 South Australian direct shareholders, and to over a million more through their superannuation funds.

But this is more than the numbers alone. It is people. It is local mums and dads and retirees and students. It is what we do in the community, and the investment and funding and support we provide to help South Australian families buy their homes, and entrepreneurs to build their businesses.

When the State Government announced a Bank Tax, as a local I was disheartened. As a bank, we were deeply concerned.

We expect more of our leaders, especially those charged with the vital task of economic management. To impose a blatantly populist tax grab against companies that have long invested in the state, in its economy, and in its communities, simply defies belief. There is no logic or public policy rationale to justify it.

A tax has to be borne by somebody, and, if passed, it would have to be borne by our customers, our shareholders, our employees, our suppliers, or any combination of these.

Australia’s banks – which are owned by everyday Australians – cannot be a blank cheque for governments to fill their own coffers.

We need to work together to bring about new jobs, not a ‘whack a tax’ approach that would have far-reaching economic impacts on South Australia’s economy.

Since the State Budget, business leaders and investors across the country and globally have highlighted that South Australia is today less attractive a place to invest than it was a week ago. That is clear, and so very disappointing.

Already, this proposed tax has eroded confidence in South Australia at a time when it needs it the most.

The Treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis, says he’s introducing the tax to create jobs. What he is actually doing is making South Australia less competitive.

Every day, businesses, including NAB, consider where to invest. We create and support local jobs. Last year, for example, we chose South Australia as the state to pilot our new personal banking origination platform. It was the biggest ever overhaul of our technology systems – a massive direct investment in the South Australian economy through job creation, office facilities and training, accommodation, and hospitality. In the future, would we consider other states instead of South Australia for such projects? Yes, potentially. Because it may now be more financially viable to look elsewhere.

On the freeway in the Hills, there’s a warning sign if you start driving in the lane against the traffic: “Go back, you are going the wrong way”. Simply put, the State Government is going the wrong way. The Government would harm many many thousands of South Australians if this tax goes ahead. Perhaps many more people than you think. Perhaps you.

They are putting a dagger to business, when South Australia needs business most.

NAB is proud of the service we provide to our customers, the contributions we make to our communities, and the role we play in the economy. We are a fundamental part of South Australia, and that’s why we are standing up against this tax.

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