No. Member Question


(Publication date)

RBA01QON Kelly

In the hearing, the following exchange occurred:

Mr Kelly: You mentioned that the number of self-employed people has declined. Do you have any of those numbers off the top of your head?

Mr Lowe: I do in my briefing but I probably can't get them straight away. Luci, do you have those? There has been an increase in some types of self-employment—say, the Uber driver and those in the gig economy. I can get that data for you and send it through.

Therefore, can you please provide the data regarding the number of self-employed people in Australia?         

(Hansard, p.24, 14 August 2020)

The RBA’s
responses to all
7 questions
are available as a
single document:

(25 September 2020)
RBA02QW Leigh

Recently, Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, has joined the US Federal Reserve to express concerns over the impact of large scale corporate insolvencies on economic recovery. The MD of the Ravi Menon MAS stated on corporate bankruptcies: “We want to make sure that the process is well-managed and orderly so from that perspective, we can expect to see some business closures and that is not entirely bad … But if it gets very large and disorderly, and it creates a lot of dislocations in supply chains and worker lay-offs and so on, then it’s a serious problem.”


a. Can you outline the views of the Governor and/or the Reserve Bank of Australia on the likely impacts on corporate insolvencies in the Australian context?

b. Has the RBA done research or modelling on the scale of insolvencies in the Australian context?

c. If so, can data on those effects be shared with the committee, including by firm size, industry type, and geographic region?

RBA03QW Leigh

As part of the first Coronavirus Economic Response series of measures, the Government implemented temporary relief for individuals regarding bankruptcy laws, and for directors and corporations on insolvent trading provisions under the Corporations Act. There is public discussion about those measures potentially being extended by the Government.

a. Was the Reserve Bank consulted about the first measure or about extending it?

b. Has the RBA conducted modelling or research regarding the macroeconomic effects of bankruptcies and insolvencies that are delayed by these measures? And if so, can data on those effects be shared with the committee, including by firm size, industry type, and geographic region?

RBA04QW Leigh Many businesses – particularly small and medium sized enterprises – that are struggling with declining revenues and cashflow may not seek out advice from professional service providers to assist them in accessing government programs, restructuring and/or turning around their businesses, or winding up their activity in a less damaging fashion (for the business owners and their creditors). Some stakeholders advocate for vouchers or forms of subsidy to help ensure businesses receive appropriate advice.

a. Does the RBA have a view on benefits or downsides of such assistance in-principle?
RBA05QW Leigh Recently the OECD stated in its Australia Economic Snapshot:  “Expanded loan guarantees, coupled with accelerated insolvency processes, could reduce scarring for entrepreneurs and facilitate a more dynamic recovery.”(Source: Can you elaborate on the RBA’s views on scarring for entrepreneurs in the current context, including any reference to loan guarantees or accelerated insolvency processes?
RBA06QW Leigh The Reserve Bank administers the Term Funding Facility that provides funds to lenders at the current overnight cash rate for three years on the understanding it will be loaned to businesses and households in need. The RBA recently stated that take-up was “increasingly steadily” (Source:

a. Can the RBA provide data on the take-up by lender (or lender type) and size, by month? Is the take-up rate below estimates of the RBA and/or Treasury?
RBA07QW Leigh The European Central Bank’s has a similar scheme that offers loans at rates as low as -1% to banks that are willing to expand lending to small and medium-sized businesses. According to some commentary, “[t]his offer has helped drive the interest rate faced by small and medium-sized businesses as low as 2%, well below the 4.5% sometimes charged in Australia. If the Reserve Bank offered part of the Term Funding Facility at a negative interest rate for banks that expanded lending to small businesses, it would likely see some expansion” (Source:

a. Has the RBA considered adopting the ECB approach in an Australian context? What is the RBA’s view on such an approach?
RBA08QON Simmonds

Mr SIMMONDS: The Term Funding Facility has obviously been an important tool—as we've spoken about before—in supporting liquidity. Do you have some extra data that you can provide to the committee about the use of the TFF by ADIs and the amount of lending backed by the TFF? In particular, on the commentary about one bank that said it has publicly exhausted its current allocation and will look to tap the allocation further. It is going to play a big part going forward, potentially.

Mr Lowe: It's quite an important program. It's making sure the banks have access to low-cost funding and it's helping to keep the whole structure of funding costs down. I don't have any extra information to share. I know that after we last met there was a question in writing to which we provided additional information about which institutions, by size, had been using it and how much of their allocations. I could update the data.

(Hansard p. 18, 2 December 2020)

Responses to
questions 8 - 10

(21 December 2020)

RBA09QON Mulino

Dr MULINO: Some of this might be to take on notice, but I would have thought the models that you would be using would be able to make assessments against some of these benchmarks that I'm alluding to. As you said, population growth is expected to fall significantly this year. I've seen a number of estimates. You talked about 0.1; I have seen 0.3 or 0.4, but we'll see. I think it's expected to bounce back a bit next year. If it would be possible to get an estimate of how long it would take for people's per capita GDP to recover—if that is different; it might be an extra year—I would be interested in—

Mr Lowe: It's very hard because I think it largely comes down to what you think's going to happen to the capital stock—both the physical capital stock from investment and the human capital stock from investment in education. We don't really have a very good handle on how quickly those capital stocks will get back to their previous trend, but I'll see what information we've had there.

Dr MULINO: That would be good.

Mr Lowe: I'm just thinking on the fly here. It's hard to do modelling about that. You can make assumptions, and maybe that's the best way of doing it, saying, 'What type of assumptions do you need to make to get back to the previous trend we were on in terms of per capita incomes?'

Dr MULINO: Although if you're estimating total GDP to get to a certain point there must be an assumed capital stock underpinning that?

Mr Lowe: Yes, there is. I can unpack that and provide the details for you.

(Hansard pp. 18-19, 2 December 2020)

RBA10QON Murphy

Ms MURPHY: …The annual report, at page 119, talks about the Reserve Bank's research. I'll just read this paragraph so you know that I'm reading all of it when I ask the question:

The Bank sponsors economic research in areas that are closely aligned with its primary responsibilities. This sponsorship includes financial support for conferences, workshops, data gathering, journals and special research projects, and encompasses areas of study such as macroeconomics, econometrics and finance.

All of that makes perfect sense, if I may say so. The report goes on to say:

In addition, the Bank provides sponsorship to the Centre for Independent Studies and the Sydney Institute.

It then lists corporate memberships and memberships of various organisations, such as CEDA. My question is: what form does the sponsorship of the Centre for Independent Studies and the Sydney Institute take?

Mr Lowe: If it's okay, I'll have to come back in writing with more details about the overall approach here because I'm not close enough to the details. From where I sit in the discussions we have internally about the approach, we say we want to support think tanks right across the intellectual spread. I go and speak to various groups from the Left and the Right, if I'm allowed to use those words, and I try to be incredibly even-handed. I say that to my staff as well on the approach with these various entities.

(Hansard pp. 15-16, 2 December 2020)

RBA11QW Bandt 

(a) How many applications were submitted for tender to supply electricity for the RBA?

(b) Was the successful applicant chosen as being the cheapest offer or were there other considerations, if there were other considerations, please list them.

(c) Was consideration given to choosing an applicant that did not own or operate fossil fuelled power generation?

(d) Were there conditions on the contract that power be sourced from clean generation or GreenPower certificates?

(e) In selecting the ultimately successful tenderer, was consideration given to:

(i) The fact that this contract would ensure three years of cash flow to a coal-fired power station; and

(ii) The fact that the owners of the company have regularly made donations to political parties?

(f) Is the RBA investing in any energy efficiency measures to drive down the amount of electricity required?

(g) How does this energy acquisition conform with the statement from the Bank of International Settlement that the RBA is a member of that “climate change could lead to the next ‘Green Swan’ event and be the cause of the next financial crisis”.

(11 January 2021)

RBA12QON Bandt Mr BANDT: Some of the work that the Australian government's Climate Change Authority produced a while ago worked on the basis of getting a global carbon budget, and then an Australian carbon budget that is consistent with that two degrees, and laid out some targets about what it might take to get there. Has the Reserve Bank looked at the recent work from the Climate Targets Panel about updating the budget and the state of Australia's carbon budget that is consistent with two degrees?

Dr Debelle: I will have to come back to you on that; I'm not sure. It's plausible that the staff have. Can I take that one on notice? I'm not sure exactly what they have been across.

Responses to questions 12 - 18

(3 March 2021)

RBA13QW Bandt

Does the RBA expect government bonds will soon have a disclosure of climate change risks?

(a) What would be the advantages and disadvantages of such disclosures?

(b) Does the RBA think that Australian bonds should have climate risk disclosures?

(c) What preparation is the RBA doing in anticipation of the litigation against the AOFM and Treasury for the lack of climate disclosure on bonds?

(Hansard p. 26, 5 February 2021)

RBA14QW Bandt Testimony provided to the committee showed that the RBA has consulted with the CSIRO on climate scenarios.
Have you also been consulting with the Bureau of Meteorology?

(a) Will the RBA be relying on the Bureau’s current most likely scenario based on historical observations and future projections drawn from the IPCC 5th Assessment Report, that global warming of 3.4 degrees C by 2100 is estimated to translate to warming of between 3.4 and 4.4 degrees C for Australia?

(b) What are the RBA’s initial views of the implications of this likely scenario of up to 4.4 degrees for Australia’s economy and the financial system over the next 80 years?
RBA15QW Bandt Please outline what temperature scenarios the RBA is relying on to do its work on financial stability reviews and preparation. What is the scenario that the RBA, in consultation with the CSIRO, is adopting as the most likely scenario?  
RBA16QW Bandt Did the RBA’s recent electricity supply contract with Sunset Power require electricity to be provided from their renewable generation assets or coal fired power or a mix of the two? Please provide the ratio of renewable generation versus coal fired power that is required under the supply contract.  
RBA17QW Leigh

Economic impact of reduced JobSeeker payments

 Answering questions after his speech to the National Press Club on 3 February 2021, Mr Lowe said:

“I think there’s a wide consensus in the community that the previous level should be increased permanently, and I've said on previous occasions that I would join that consensus.”

Mr Lowe also said that if the Jobkeeper supplement is not extended it would have an impact on the economy:

“It would obviously have some effect because these people are getting their supplement. A vast bulk of them spend the bulk of the income they get so there would be some effect on spending.”

In addition, during the 5 February House Economics Committee hearing, Mr Lowe commented:

“…the rate at which we assist people who are on unemployment I think is relevant to the economic questions we face. It affects labour supply. It affects spending in the economy. And the way that we assist unemployed people affects the way they participate in the society and the economic system.”

Noting the recent reduction of unemployment payments:

 (a) In the Reserve Bank’s estimation, where are the impacts of reduced unemployment payments likely to be felt (i.e. particular regions, industries, market sectors or communities with certain socio-economic characterises)?

 (b) Would an increase in the base rate of unemployment payments generate outcomes that are consistent with the RBA’s goals on employment, inflation and wages?

 (c) In the estimation of the RBA, would an increase to the base rate of unemployment payments boost spending, demand and jobs?

 (d) Would increasing the base rate of unemployment payments boost spending, demand and jobs sooner than strategies that rely on the levers of monetary policy?

RBA18QON Bandt

Mr BANDT: In my remaining time, I will shift to the question of bonds. Given the recent announcement about the range of purchases that the governor referred to in his opening address, what proportion of the government debt that has been issued by AOFM either during 2020-21 financial year or since the pandemic began is the Reserve Bank going to end up having on its books?

Dr Debelle: My computer has locked up at exactly the moment I need to answer your question. We have exactly those numbers; I'm going to talk off the top of my head but they are not going to be exactly right. My computer has asked me to change my pass code as I answer your question, so it obviously doesn't want me to do that! What I can tell you is that, over the next period, we are going to be buying a bit more than what the AOFM is issuing. This is starting from when the current program finishes through until September. We will be buying $80 billion worth of Australian government securities and the AOFM will be issuing less than that by about $10 billion net. I will come back to you with the exact number when I can access it.
And then over the period just gone—we bought less than the AOFM issued in the first few months of the pandemic. We had bond purchases to address the market dysfunction at the time. That was quite a bit less than what the AOFM was issuing. Since we started the bond purchase program in November, we've been buying around the same order of magnitude, but I am going to try to give you the exact figure in a second.

(Hansard p. 26, 5 February 2021)


In the application to the ACCC for the merger of the NPP, EFTPOS and BPAY it was noted in section 5 that the RBA would not seek to hold shares in the NewCo entity and that the RBA would divest itself of its shares in the NPPA.

(a) Does the RBA intend to divest itself of shares in the NPPA regardless of the outcome of the merger application?

(b) If yes:

(i) Why does the RBA believe that it needs to divest itself from the NPPA?

(ii) What measures does the RBA have in place to ensure the ability of all participants to access the payments rails?

Responses to questions 19 - 23

(18 August 2021)

The NPPA’s October 2020 roadmap outlined that the NPP would be available to support international payments by the end of 2022. In their update to the roadmap in April 2021, the commitment to support international payments by the end of 2022 is deleted and instead has a commitment that it is “coming soon”.

Is the RBA satisfied that the NPPA is progressing support for international payments to its satisfaction?

The October 2020 roadmap required that, “all NPP participating financial institutions are obliged to join the international payments business service and receive inbound international payments via the NPP by December 2022”. This requirement is absent in the April 2021 roadmap.

(a) Is the RBA satisfied that the NPPA has a plan in place with appropriate deadlines to implement and mandate international payments?

(b) Is the RBA aware of any impediments that would prevent the implementation of international payments through the NPP by the end of 2022?

(c) What mechanisms does the RBA have to ensure that the NPP meets its stated public obligations?

Governor Lowe’s speech to the Australian Payments Network summit in December 2020 described the area of international money transfers as an area where the RBA would like to see more progress, and that “we need to do more”.

(a) Will the RBA ask the NPPA to deliver timeframes and hold them accountable if they do not meet them?

(b) Is there a need for Parliament to examine the operation of the NPP given it is an essential piece of the payments architecture in Australia?

The Bulk Electronic Clearing System (BECS) is moving closer to end of life as a useful system for payments in Australia. Does the RBA have a concern that the NPP could effectively have a monopoly on the payments rails in Australia?

Murphy Ms MURPHY: ...My understanding is that the RBA is exempt from data reporting to WGEA, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. I'm sure that's not the RBA's fault. It's probably how the legislation was drafted. But I'm wondering whether you would consider looking at the sort of data that other institutions or other companies do report to WGEA about the gender pay gap and then the RBA voluntarily publishing that sort of data, which you would understand is de-identified for employees, as another way of looking at dealing with the gender pay gap. We don't know at the moment what the gender pay gap is in the RBA, but one might assume from the statistics I just quoted and the fact that there were some pay transparency clauses that it perhaps isn't as good as it should be.

Ms MURPHY: …You don't have to answer now, but I would appreciate it, Governor and Dr Debelle, if you would look at whether the RBA publishes the sort of data that WGEA gets from other organisations and, if not, if you would look at doing that.
Mr Lowe: We certainly will do that.

Responses to questions 24 - 29

Hansard p. 14
6 August 2021

(2 September 2021)

Simmonds Mr SIMMONDS: I'll just change tack a little bit. In your discussions with other reserve bank governors, internationally, what is the general feel and discussion about the trend in China's GDP growth? We've seen it reduce. Is it the view, internationally, that we're going to continue to see that pre-COVID trend of it reducing downwards?
Mr Lowe: Before COVID, Chinese growth had slowed back to something like five or six per cent.

Mr SIMMONDS: Some economists have said that they expect to see it slow even to two or three per cent in the next few years. Is that your view, or do you see it not going down as far as that?
Mr Lowe: I don't know. That's not my central view. Luci, five to six per cent is probably the baseline for China in our forecasts?
Dr Ellis: That sounds about right, but I'd have to look it up.

Hansard pp. 17-18
6 August 2021

Leigh Dr LEIGH: Okay. The Bank for International Settlements has set up two green investment funds as an option for safe, liquid green investments. My understanding is that the European Central Bank has invested and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has invested, and the Reserve Bank of Australia has very clearly talked about the risks to macroeconomic stability from climate change. Accordingly, has the RBA invested any of Australia's foreign reserves in the Bank of International Settlements green bond funds?

Dr Debelle: I will have to come back to you on that one, Deputy Chair. I know we're looking at a similar set-up in the Asian region currently, along with our counterparts across the EMEAP region. I will have to come back to you. We can own the green bonds directly; we don't have to go through the BIS investment vehicle. A green bond issued by sovereigns that we invest in, particularly in Europe, is an investable asset in our portfolio. I think the one thing I'd note at the moment, in this market, is that, with these bonds, there is more demand than supply globally at the moment. There's a lot of appetite to invest in such bonds, and at the moment, I would say, there is probably not enough supply to meet that in the end. But, as I said, we can own the bonds directly; we don't need to go via the BIS investment vehicle.
Dr LEIGH: If you could come back to me on that broad issue, I'd be grateful.

Hansard pp. 24-25
6 August 2021

Leigh In the public hearing, you provided a weekly estimate on the economic impact of lockdown on NSW.

(a) Please provide estimates of the economic impact of lockdowns on all of the states/territories?

(b) What assumptions are these estimates based on?
Leigh The SMP forecasts were finalised before the ABS released their trade data for June.

(a) Given that exports prices outstripped nominal export growth in the June quarter, is there a chance net exports will detract from June quarter GDP growth?

(b) Will you be revising your forecasts in light of this?

(c) Is there now a chance of a second recession if we see a contraction in June?
Leigh In relation to the Committed Liquidity Facility, in an answer to Mr Falinski, Dr Debelle referred to a bank’s deposit on the RBA balance sheet as ‘the ultimate form of liquidity’. As a result of the RBA’s QE program and the TFF, banks now hold more than $300 billion on deposit with the RBA.

Since the RBA can predict with quite high accuracy (1) when the government bonds you hold as a result of QE will mature and (2) when the TFF will be repaid in accordance with its terms and conditions, the RBA can in turn predict the quantity of cash banks are likely to hold with the RBA via their deposits, which are known as Exchange Settlement Accounts (ESAs).

APRA and the RBA define High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA) as including only (1) ESA cash on deposit at the RBA, (2) Commonwealth government bonds, and (3) State government bonds. When the RBA last calculated the universe of available HQLA for banks to hold instead of holding the CLF, the RBA chose at that time to exclude the ESA cash on deposit at the RBA because historically the banks have not held much excess cash on deposit at the RBA.

However, since banks are now likely to hold hundreds of billions of dollars of excess cash at the RBA for as long as the RBA holds its bonds purchased under the QE program, and the TFF monies remain outstanding, would it now not make sense to include the excess ESA cash in RBA calculation of the HQLA universe for the purposes of in term determining the size of, and need for, the CLF?
RBA30QW Mulino

At the public hearing on 6 August 2021 (Hansard, p. 12) Dr Ellis said:

I take your point that some things will be different, in particular the shift to online sales. There'll be reduced business travel and we'll all be doing videoconferencing. There are some things that have changed in an ongoing way—I completely agree with that. The major element of the economic impact and the thing that causes people to lose jobs is that lockdowns prevent people from spending on ordinary consumption activities that they would like to do again. People will start going back to restaurants, they'll start seeing their friends and they'll start going to shops again—so retail spending—and we've seen this multiple times.

I can see that there's a risk as long as incomes aren't maintained. The lesson from the first lockdown last year, the Victorian lockdown last year and all of the subsequent lockdowns around the country has been that spending on retail items goes back very quickly. When I said that forecasting was an exercise in future humility, we haven't been looking at Phil's coffee mug; we've been consistently too pessimistic about how quickly things have bounced back. If we go back to the forecast we published ahead of our last appearance in February, we were still expecting unemployment to be well above what it is now, or what it was in June.

(a) In reference to Dr. Ellis’s comment that ‘the lesson from the first lockdown last year, the Victorian lockdown last year and all of the subsequent lockdowns around the country has been that spending on retail items goes back very quickly’, to what extent was the speed and scale of the economic recovery following the easing of restrictions in 2020 and early 2021 driven by the assistance provided through fiscal policy to households, specifically JobKeeper and other federal government supports?

(b) In reference to Dr. Ellis’s comment that ‘there’s a risk as long as incomes aren’t maintained’, how will the absence of JobKeeper during this current set of restrictions and stay-at-home orders across multiple states impact economic activity once those restrictions ease?

(c) Does the RBA anticipate that the pace of recovery following the easing of current restrictions on activity will be slower compared with previous lockdowns, because household balance sheets are weaker?

(9 September 2021)

CHAIR: Thank you. My final question is to Governor Lowe. At a previous meeting, Peta Murphy asked you a question about sponsorship of think tanks. That resulted in a change in the RBA's sponsorship arrangement. Could you please provide to the committee, on notice, the working papers and communications that resulted in that change? As is the case with questions on notice, could they please be provided in the next 10 days? I just want to make it very clear, though, following the discussions of the questions that the deputy chair asked about disclosures et cetera emanating out of the Federal Reserve, that I would hate the Reserve Bank to make a policy change on the basis of a question from one member of this committee. If that is your intention, I think it goes to some points made by Deputy Governor Debelle, which are that any investment made or any savings undertaken by an officer of the Reserve Bank will result in some form of conflict. So we would want to have a more detailed discussion if you were considering making changes to that policy.

Mr Lowe: Yes. We'll look for the relevant documents. The documents will talk about—

CHAIR: And team communication, please.

Mr Lowe: Yes. It was about establishing criteria for the think tanks that we were to be a corporate member of.

CHAIR: And decisions were made out of that working group, as I understand it.

Mr Lowe: Yes.

CHAIR: The chair would like to see—sorry for referring to myself in the third person—the communications and the working papers of that working group that you established to make those decisions, please.

Mr Lowe: Okay, we'll look for those documents.

Responses to questions 31 - 33

Hansard p. 26
11 February 2022

(2 March 2022)
Leigh Further to our discussion at the hearing on 11 February, I would invite you to please let the Committee know: a) How many RBA board members currently hold individual shares; b) How many individual shares are held, in aggregate, by all RBA board members (for example, if two board members held Qantas shares, this would count has two holdings); and c) How many individual shares in financial institutions are held by RBA board members (again, if two board members held Westpac shares, this would count as two holdings).
Leigh Does the Reserve Bank have any processes in place to audit declarations of material personal interest by board members and staff? If so, how many such audits were performed during the past 12 months? How many of these related to board members, and how many related to staff?

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About this inquiry

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics is empowered to inquire into, and report on, the annual reports of government departments and authorities tabled in the House that stand referred to the committee in accordance with the Speaker’s Schedule.

The Reserve Bank of Australia annual reports stand referred to the committee in accordance with this schedule. The committee resolved to conduct an inquiry into the RBA’s 2019 Annual Report on 10 December 2019, and extended the inquiry to cover the 2020 Annual Report on 23 June 2021.

Past Public Hearings

11 Feb 2022: Canberra
06 Aug 2021: Canberra
05 Feb 2021: Canberra


Inquiry Status

Report tabled


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