Friday, 22 June 2018

Addendum to previous post on financial exclusion

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has released a further Background Paper titled ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers of financial products’ (link here).

The Background Paper provides a useful but basic overview of the available data on Indigenous access and use of financial products. The Paper emphasises that data on this topic is limited as most providers of financial services do not collect data on the Indigenous status of their customers.

The Paper provides, in section 5, an account of policy reforms since 2010 to address financial exclusion of Indigenous people. I don’t propose to undertake a detailed critique or commentary, but suffice to say the information provided is rather thin gruel. Closing the Gap would improve financial inclusion, but the gap is not closing. Indigenous Business Australia is an important statutory entity, but its impact on financial inclusion is rather diffuse. The other issues mentioned are all positive, but the depth and breadth of their impact is likely to be minimal in my view, although I hasten to add that no-one knows for sure, because none of these initiatives have been reviewed or evaluated to assess their impact on Indigenous financial inclusion.

Notwithstanding the negative tone of the comments above, they are not directed to criticising the Royal Commission. Indeed, the Commission is to be commended for identifying the issue and seeking to document what is happening in relation to Indigenous use of financial products and services.

However, nothing in this Paper leads me to revise my overarching observations in the previous post.

One further idea worth considering would be for the Government to initiate a Parliamentary Inquiry into financial exclusion amongst Indigenous citizens. This in turn might lead to further academic research and a higher profile amongst both public and private sector agencies for these issues.