Morrison Takes Swipe at Australian Banks Over Business Loans

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(Bloomberg) --

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken a swipe at the nation’s big-four banks, telling them to move faster in helping businesses access loans.

While praising the banks for their actions in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak -- including passing on interest-rate cuts and offering mortgage relief -- he said there’s now growing frustration among businesses seeking bridging finance while they wait for government wage subsidies to start flowing.

“It is important that the banks stay up to the mark here,” Morrison said at a media conference in Canberra Thursday. “I am concerned at the increasing number of stories we are getting. We need those turnaround times to improve. These banks know their customers. They work with these businesses, they are there to stand by these businesses in their time of greatest need and that is now.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he held a phone hook-up with the big-four bank CEOs on Thursday, where they agreed to set up a dedicated hotline for customers seeking bridging loans and to expedite those applications.

Banks have already granted more than A$700 million of loans to businesses to help them through the crisis, Australian Banking Association Chief Executive Officer Anna Bligh said in a statement.

“From today banks are bolstering their efforts to fast-track any outstanding applications from businesses seeking funding to help them pay staff” until the wage subsidies start next month, she said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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