It takes a lot more than a few days to bring about lasting change; in fact a lifetime may not be enough when it comes to taking on the big end of town.
But for the very few days the CHOICE Better Banking Campaign has been up and running we are beginning to see some green shoots of change. The global consumer movement won an unexpected victory at the G20, and the Government and Opposition in Australia have been falling over themselves to say the right things.
Taking on an everyday issue affecting everyone is always a good start, but our modest successes so far have come from talking to anyone who will listen and giving everyone else a place to have their say.
At last week’s G20 summit in Seoul, Julia Gillard secured an agreement for the leaders of the world’s biggest economies to look at improving consumer financial protection. This followed meetings with the Treasurer and the Prime Minister’s office and more CHOICE talk in the media. It’s true it took other countries to support the issue but credit (no pun intended) where credit is due, it was Australia’s Prime Minister that made it happen.
And this week I’ve been in Canberra with our finance ministers and a line-up of independent parliamentarians – the senators holding the balance of power. While I don’t doubt the Government’s commitment to reform, this tiny group of people whose votes keep the Government in power provide a useful pressure point for any campaigner. And so it’s no surprise that suddenly the whole of Australia seems to want their time.
In reality though, it is public opinion on banking that really counts. We’ve all got a story to tell and that includes most businesses and it’s giving a license for people to talk about banking that’s providing the life blood to our campaign.
The more we’ve been talking the more people have come out of the woodwork in support of the campaign: consumers in their thousands; small businesses in their hundreds; and entrepreneurs – well, one.
Earlier this week I met one man who is taking on the banking sector with innovative new services – that are more responsive and cost less than the established big providers charge. It’s a lonely place when the giants of finance don’t want you there.
Banking and competition are not words that sit well together with outdated rules, red tape and endless barriers to new entrants alongside preferential treatment to the banks’ big cousins in groceries and telcos. The rich tradition in Australia of monopolies and duopolies squeezing SMEs and consumers lives on.
This afternoon I’m off to the Gold Coast to hear people’s everyday banking challenges through the start of a series of town hall style meetings. Keeping the debate alive across the country is critical to keeping the country talking about how we can get better banking for all. If you want to be part of this national conversation please join the Campaign.