1 Nov 2010

Banks under political pressure over interest rates

6:19 pm on 1 November 2010

Australia's big banks are under political pressure over interest rates.

Two years ago, at the peak of the global financial crisis, the health of Australia banks compared with their American and European counterparts was a badge of pride.

These days, Radio New Zealand's Sydney correspondent reports, it is becoming an embarrassment.

Last week, two of the big four banks, ANZ and National Australia Bank, reported annual cash earnings of close to $A10 billion.

Lending is recovering, bad debt charges are receding and net interest margins are widening - good news if you're a shareholder, but politically difficult with the federal opposition on the warpath.

Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey has called for an inquiry into possible collusion between the big four and measures to ease the concentration in banking.

He also accuses the banks of using their dominance to raise lending rates beyond increases in the official cash rate.