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Wednesday, October 14

Time to change Government banks?

The Government should be reviewing its use of Westpac as the Government’s banker in light of the High Court’s finding that Westpac has illegally avoided more than half a billion dollars in tax, said Green Party Finance spokesperson Dr Russel Norman today.

“The High Court’s findings place considerable question marks around Westpac’s status as a good corporate citizen. Should a bank that structures its affairs to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in tax be the Government’s banker?” asked Dr Norman.

The Minister of Finance revealed during Question time in the House today that the Government keeps no record of the bank fees it incurs through its relationship with Westpac. Nor would he be drawn on whether he is reconsidering the relationship.

Said Mr English, “The Government will honour the terms of its contractual arrangements with Westpac, which have been in place now since 1989.”

“It’s time this Government considered an exit strategy from its current banking relationship with Westpac. Our Government’s banker needs to be above reproach. Ideally, it should also be New Zealand owned, given the additional positive impact this would have on our terms of trade,” added Dr Norman.

“We also have to wonder how the Government decides whether it is getting good value from Westpac when they have no idea the level of fees they are actually paying the bank.”

“Greater investment in Kiwibank will be needed to bring it up to the level where it can compete on a level footing with the big Australian-owned banks and become our Government’s banker,” Dr Norman said.