The Reserve Bank Reform Bill

Written By: - Date published: 7:23 am, December 7th, 2018 - 11 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, david parker, Deep stuff, Economy, employment, grant robertson, labour, monetary policy, Politics, treasury - Tags:

Way, way back in the day, there was a Prime Minister called Robert Muldoon who made himself the Minister of Finance. As a total control freak he was the epitome of a leader dominating a command-and-control economy and society. He had a lot of pretty direct control over the Reserve Bank as well.

But his spectre of 35 years ago remains an excuse for never letting politicians near the actual inflation/economy balancing machine called the RBNZ.

That kind of Prime Minister really pushed the boundaries of our constitutional framework, and it was pretty clear to the incoming Lange-led government that some real statutory independence was in order.

So since 1989, 30 years ago, the Reserve Bank has had a lot more separation from direct democratic control. It has its own Board, and the government of the day sets its objectives, which are intended to be as enduring as possible.

The current policy targets agreement provided by this government’s economic objectives for the New Zealand requires the Reserve Bank to “improve the wellbeing and living standards of New Zealanders through a sustainable, productive, and inclusive economy. Our priority is to move towards a low carbon economy, with a strong diversified export base, that delivers decent jobs with higher wages and reduces inequality and poverty.”

Specifically for the part that monetary policy is expected to play, the Government “expects monetary policy to be directed at achieving and maintaining stability in the general level of prices over the medium term and supporting maximum stable employment.”

With stuff-all inflation, and stuff-all headline unemployment, you’d have to say they are meeting their core objectives easily, which shows that their targets are too easy for any useful accountability to anyone.

But after 30 years, another reforming Labour-led government decided it was time to give this Act a shave and a haircut. More specifically, Labour campaigned on a policy to update the Reserve Bank Act, to widen the objectives of the Bank to ensure that monetary policy decision-makers emphasised both those factors, rather than just driving inflation down as the previous government did.

Personally I don’t think it would have killed them to have the Minister of Finance sitting on the Reserve Bank Board as of right. That would not have upset the consensus-based approach to their decisions. Ah but no.

And since our banking system is 90% dominated by foreign banks most of whom are Australian-domiciled, I wanted to see much stronger powers to regulate them. Earlier this year the IMF carried out a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s financial system against international standards, with a focus on the quality of financial sector regulation.

It’s not too long ago that our entire mezzanine finance sector died and killed off a generation of retirements savings with it. It’s even shorter ago that the entire Australian Big Four banks were found by a Royal Commission in Australia to be an usurous, greedy, nasty bunch of pricks. So yes, the IMF were right.

But apparently our branch offices were fine and would never do such a thing. Like butter wouldn’t melt.

We have no reason to trust banks. They own us. The Australian banking system owns us. Why we would not align the regulatory powers of our own Reserve Bank with those of Australia beggars belief. And this is despite the Reserve Bank reacting to the IMF study that according to our previous Governor:

The Reserve Bank recognises that, despite a rebalancing towards more regulation post-GFC, New Zealand’s banking system remains unusual given the emphasis that is placed on self and market discipline, and its relatively low-intensity supervisory approach.”

It is bizarre that our Reserve Bank Governor should think – particularly after the recent Panama Papers revelations – that the most useful thing is to design a system of banking regulation that fits New Zealand conditions. What it needs to do is protect us from the shits that run the money in this world. To do that is needs big, sharp regulatory teeth. And it doesn’t want them.

Instead of a wee tad of direct democratic oversight coming into the picture, the RBNZ will have a committee-based decision-making model that includes Treasury officials. Now, don’t slag Treasury off quickly. They are well on the way to implementing Minister Robertson’s new wellbeing framework for budget bids and for Budget 2019.

But what we have instead is the most anodyne of reforms to the Reserve Bank, simply a set of tweaks to ensure that it is able to emphasise employment targets as well as inflationary ones. But to otherwise dust your hands of another campaign promise.

Here’s the bill text, intended to be passed early next year.

Banking, according to Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters only yesterday, is one of several industries in New Zealand that is fleecing New Zealanders.

So at least there’s one government politician who gets this. It’s not as if we need another GFC to remind us of what a “self-regulating” banking sector does to a society when its’ profits are threatened. It sucks us dry.

Banking is but one of a series of oligopolies exercising cartel-like behaviour over this country that are sucking us to a husk. These near-cartels include:

  • fuel (for which the government has had to provide specific investigative powers)
  • building materials
  • electricity both generator and lines
  • telephone and internet
  • housing rent prices
  • supermarkets and groceries
  • liquor
  • water

… and other goods and services with barely any price regulation that we totally rely on for our very lives as well as a functioning society.

That list above contains a multitude of regulatory nightmares, affecting millions of New Zealanders, and this government will face a couple of terms just getting to grips with any of them.

And if this government doesn’t understand after the debacle it is facing in NZTA of “self-regulation” in the car and truck industry, it is only a matter of time before we get yet another avoidable disaster in any of them, including banking.

Regrettably this government has near-zero regulatory experience in its cabinet, and the person with any is David Parker and he is flooded.

In that Wellington situation, for the Reserve Bank, status quo has largely prevailed.

11 comments on “The Reserve Bank Reform Bill”

  1. Antoine 1

    I agree with much of what you say, but it is a nonsense to say that electricity lines are cartel-like and face ‘barely any price regulation’. Most lines companies are under heavy price regulation. They have to be, as there is not competition in the sector. Not comparable with the other items in your list.

    A.

    • KJT 1.1

      One of the hidden costs of privatization. The cost of regulations, monitoring and controls, to ensure one eyed profit centred private companies do not plunder the public and run down the infrastructure.
      Underlines the stupidity, of the whole privatisation of the power companies. Not to mention privatising control of banking.

  2. Phil 2

    Your entire post is woefully under-informed. The ‘anodyne’ changes you note represent only Phase One (specifically focusing on how monetary policy and inflation targeting are implemented) of a huge review of the RBNZ.

    There is a consultation paper out in the public arena right now focusing on how the RB deals with regulation and supervision of banks.

    https://treasury.govt.nz/news-and-events/reviews-consultation/reviewing-reserve-bank-act/public-consultation

  3. Blazer 3

    Reform of the banking sector is well overdue.
    They have proved time and again that they cannot be trusted.

    Still cannot understand why more NZ’ers do not embrace Kiwi Bank.
    The present ANZ chairman in his former role did his best to sideline it.

    Since the repeal of Glass Steagal the Wall St banks have dominated politics ,with disasterous results ,culminating in the GFC and ludicrous inequality and an international debt money go round that can never be repayed.

    I love the way ,most peoples biggest financial burden,i.e rent or mortgage is excluded from inflation figures.

    The Reserve Bank needs more teeth and to tear the cosy banking cartels to…shreds.

    • Antoine 3.1

      Can you please not tear my bank into shreds as i am still using it

      A.

    • Good comments and good article by Advantage. And while some parts may seem to some to be broad brush strokes, that is only because space would not permit. This govt at least is recognizing that the whole ‘deregulation thing’ is feeding overseas fat wallets and bleeding us and our govt coffers dry… so to speak.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    Specifically for the part that monetary policy is expected to play, the Government “expects monetary policy to be directed at achieving and maintaining stability in the general level of prices over the medium term and supporting maximum stable employment.”

    Then they’re doing it wrong as evidenced by the GFC and other recessions over the years.

    The problem is two fold:
    1. The private bank’s creation of money which massively pushes up inflation especially in housing
    2. The hot flow of money across borders which can cause recessions when rich people, acting as a herd, remove all the money that they can get their hands on from an economy

    Both of these need to be addressed. The first one by banning the private banks from creating money and the second by banning foreign ownership and sales of NZ goods in foreign currency.

    Earlier this year the IMF carried out a comprehensive review of New Zealand’s financial system against international standards, with a focus on the quality of financial sector regulation.

    So, what did they say?

    It is bizarre that our Reserve Bank Governor should think – particularly after the recent Panama Papers revelations – that the most useful thing is to design a system of banking regulation that fits New Zealand conditions. What it needs to do is protect us from the shits that run the money in this world. To do that is needs big, sharp regulatory teeth. And it doesn’t want them.

    Not bizarre at all when it’s obviously a Priest of the Church of Deregulation who’s in charge of the RBNZ. It doesn’t help that the government are worshippers at the same church.

    So at least there’s one government politician who gets this. It’s not as if we need another GFC to remind us of what a “self-regulating” banking sector does to a society when its’ profits are threatened. It sucks us dry.

    The banking sector sucks us dry. It’s actually designed to do that which is why it charges interest.

    The fix is a state banking system that makes both business and mortgages available at 0% interest. The money is created by the RBNZ (Reserve currency) as needed to make those loans. The funding to run this banking system would be from taxes but it is not a subsidy as everyone needs and uses those services.

    Banking is but one of a series of oligopolies exercising cartel-like behaviour over this country that are sucking us to a husk. These near-cartels include:

    … and other goods and services with barely any price regulation that we totally rely on for our very lives as well as a functioning society.

    Essential services which have a demand monopoly should always be provided by government and not the private sector.

    That list above contains a multitude of regulatory nightmares, affecting millions of New Zealanders, and this government will face a couple of terms just getting to grips with any of them.

    I’m pretty sure that they won’t even look at them as the still believe the lie that the private sector does it best despite all the evidence proving otherwise.

    And if this government doesn’t understand after the debacle it is facing in NZTA of “self-regulation” in the car and truck industry, it is only a matter of time before we get yet another avoidable disaster in any of them, including banking.

    QFT

  5. CHCOff 5

    A House is a Home, the common market of and by all NZ citizens of all classes.

    Those the type of feathers which would give the most benefit being ruffled.

    Why put further resources into the outer shells of speculation and money laundering? Better to have an approach where such things naturally atrophy and die.

    Decoupling, not regulating.

  6. Tuppence Shrewsbury 6

    FInd it a bit strange that a government that wants to reform electoral law that blatantly favours it’s support parties should “just be allowed as it’s 30 years since muldoon” to reform one of the sanest, safest and most bipartisan pieces of legislation ever enacted in New Zealand.

    But ok, nothing bad could happen here.

    • KJT 6.1

      What fantasy world do you live in. The RBA, has been one of the most destructive legacies of the 84 and 90’s Governments.

      http://kjt-kt.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-reserve-bank-debt-and-property.html

      “In New Zealand we have the “Reserve Bank Act”.

      Which basically requires the reserve bank to kill the rest of the economy, whenever Auckland house prices, or wages, rise.

      Originally enacted, as a circuit breaker, to cap excessive inflation in the 80’s, politicians have kept it, long past its use by date, because in their limited view, what works once, briefly, will work perpetually.
      It could be argued that it was somewhat successful in curbing very high inflation, on that limited occasion, though others would note that the end of very high inflation ended with the slowing of the rise in oil prices.

      Now, every time the New Zealand productive economy struggles off its knees, the reserve bank delivers another knockout.”

  7. Philj 7

    There is an alternate narrative to the MSM banking one, almost the opposite to what you have been told.
    In summary, the mainstream Bank/financial system is the problem. You decide.
    Michael Hudson is well qualified to critique the fraud that we are in. Happy thinking!

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