South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has doubled down in his battle with the big banks, declaring their opposition to his new tax “hysterical”.
He’s also urged federal politicians prompted to join in any criticism of the new banking levy to “get out of the way and just let us get on with the job”.
The treasurer says South Australia needs the extra money to flow from the tax to help create jobs and grow the local economy.
However, he’s conceded that both his tax, and the similar measure imposed by the federal government are “second best” options.
“No doubt, the perfect solution here would be a GST on financial services, but there’s no appetite for that,” Mr Koutsantonis told reporters on Saturday.
“So the commonwealth government has brought in this bank levy on liabilities, which I think is appropriate, it’s the second best option.”
As a result, the treasurer said: “the door is there and the states are walking through it, as they should.”
Mr Koutsantonis has also revealed he’s spoken with most of his interstate counterparts since announcing his new tax but declined to reveal any details of those discussions.
So far only Western Australia has indicated it may consider a similar move.
SA’s bank levy was announced in Thursday’s state budget and is expected to raise $370 million over four years.
It has prompted a chorus of criticism from the banks and business groups, who believe it will discourage investment, with analysts also warning it will lead to higher mortgage rates in SA.
The levy will apply from July 1 and slugs the same institutions to be hit by the federal government’s tax, the Macquarie Group, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and ANZ.
Mr Koutsantonis said he wanted Australia’s big banks to remain profitable and for shareholders to get good returns.
But he said he had been taken aback by their response to the “very affordable” measure.
I’m stunned that banks would behave in such an hysterical manner,” he said.