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COVID Health Levy on the Big Banks

The big banks have made massive profits during the pandemic. Bolstered by $188 billion in ultra-cheap loans from the Reserve Bank and the unprecedented housing boom – the big four have been sitting on over $19 billion in surplus capital. 

Across the big four banks, half-year cash profits soared by an average 62% – with the Commonwealth Bank reporting a profit of whopping $8 billion in the last financial year. 

If we used just a fraction of the big banks' obscene wealth to fund our hospitals, they’d be in a much better position to handle COVID-19 surges as Queensland reopens.  

That’s why the Queensland Greens are proposing a COVID Health Levy on the Big Banks. 

Imposing a state-based Big Bank Levy of 0.05% of total liabilities per quarter on the five biggest banks operating in Queensland would raise $1.03 billion over the next year. That’s $1.03 billion we could invest right now into our public hospitals. 

Here's how it would boost our public health system

Queensland’s hospitals are already operating at more than 100% capacity, and that’s before a COVID-19 surge. An extra billion dollars each year would:

  • Boost our hospital system with an extra $750 million investment, creating an additional 500 beds, across ICU, emergency and inpatient wards .
  • Enhance our state’s Hospital at Home options by delivering it publicly with an extra $280 million per year, ensuring Queenslanders with COVID-19 in a stable condition can isolate at home with the healthcare they need to get better. This will add the equivalent of at least 200 beds to the hospital system.

Making the Big Banks pay their fair share 

The Greens think it’s time we had a little more for Queensland Hospitals, and a little less for the big banks.

  • The rate of the Big Bank Levy will be set at 0.05% per quarter (or 0.2% per year) and apply to Queensland’s share of bank deposits (which is their main source of revenue) that are subject to the Commonwealth’s Major Bank levy (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ, NAB and Macquarie).   
  • The Queensland share of bank liabilities will be calculated using Queensland’s Gross State Product as a share of national GDP which is currently 18.9%. 
  • Banks will be prohibited by law from passing on the cost of the levy directly to customers. 

Long term public health funding

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic our public hospital system didn’t have enough beds, nurses or doctors. In 2019, Queensland public hospitals were so overwhelmed they were forced to declare an emergency and ask people not to go to emergency departments. 

While an extra $1 billion investment will go a long way in boosting our public health system’s capacity for a COVID-19 surge, we also need significant investment in long-term solutions for our public health system. Additional, ongoing investment is needed to bolster emergency departments, improve staff to patient ratios, overhaul mental health support and care, improve palliative care, maternity services and addiction management. 

Want more details? Read my longer explainer here.