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Domestic violence advocates tell Senate Committee to reject the Government’s plans repeal safe lending laws

Financial abuse and domestic violence advocates will give evidence to the Senate Committee today about the harm women will face if the Government’s Supporting Economic Recovery Bill is passed.

Spokesperson for the Economic Abuse Reference Group Laura Bianchi said its 20 member organisations, which assist people experiencing financial abuse, have grave concerns about the impact of removing lending protections on people experiencing domestic and family violence.  

Ms Bianchi, who also heads up Redfern Legal Centre’s Financial Abuse Service NSW, said current lending obligations prescribe important steps which often identify red flags in domestic and family abuse.

“Responsible lending protections are absolutely critical, because they help ensure that the lender makes inquiries as to the loan’s purpose, suitability and affordability. When used correctly, these checks and balances play an important role in preventing economic abuse,” Ms Bianchi said.

Dozens of domestic violence and economic abuse advocacy groups have joined together to urge the Senate Standing Committee on Economics to recommend this Bill does not get passed.

Quotes attributable to Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Rights Legal Centre Karen Cox

“In recent years, and especially during the pandemic, our organisations have seen an increase in online loan applications, remote signing and consent which removes opportunities for bank staff to identify red flags for financial abuse.

“Without the requirements in our current save lending laws to verify information on loan applications and to assess the requirements and objectives of borrowers, we fear there will be a tidal wave of economic abuse.”

Quotes attributable to Renata Field, Policy and Research Manager for Domestic Violence NSW:

“Any weakening of consumer protections could have devastating impacts on people who have experienced violence and abuse.

“The lending laws we have in place provide a remedy for women when lenders do not undertake the required steps or ignore the red flags of economic abuse. If this Bill is passed we know from our experience helping victim-survivors that more women will end up carrying unaffordable debts left over from abusive relationships.”

Quotes attributable to Carmel Franklin, Chief Executive Officer of Care Financial Counselling

“Removing these laws will reduce the ability of advocates like financial counsellors and community lawyers to assist survivors with debts that they accrued during abusive relationships.

“If advocates cannot help women resolve these unsuitable debts, it is almost impossible for them to re-establish their lives. It will make it more likely that victims of financial abuse are compelled to return to or remain in an abusive relationship, when the financial barriers to leaving are insurmountable.”

Quotes attributable to Chief Executive Officer of Domestic Violence NSW Delia Donovan

“It has been well documented that rates of domestic abuse have risen sharply in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Victim-survivors need laws and policies that make it harder for perpetrators to use credit products to perpetrate economic abuse. Instead, the proposed reforms will make it easier for perpetrators of financial abuse to game the system.”