SANDI KEANE. The bank cat is out of the bag.

May 30, 2019

The cat is out of the bag. Bank shares have shot up since the surprise election result as new investors pile onto the great franking credits bandwagon.

“Hey, you got any of these franking credits,” older bloke asks mate. It’s two days post-election. I’m on my regular break from my home desk with my dog, Mackie, in Kew’s affogato central. Leafy Kew was at the heart of Kooyong’s electoral battleground. The two men are at an adjoining table at the cafe. They’re talking about the “franking credits” campaign — the pitched battle to win the retiree vote. “No,” is the reply, “but I’m gonna look into them.”

That night, I’m on my way to Hamer Hall to an ACO concert with old pal, Rex. “I’ve transferred all my money into bank shares,” he announces, awaiting my reaction. Then to press home the point, he jabs me in the ribs “I not only get all that free money but the share price has gone up!” He laughs. And he voted Greens!

Fast forward to the end of the week and I’m back in Kew cafe-land with the four-legged one, getting my coffee fix again. It’s a different cafe. We’re seated outside. A couple of elders go past. My ears prick up….they’re talking about “franking credits”. But they’re not congratulating themselves for keeping Bill Shorten’s hands off their “free money”. No, they’re wondering how they can get their hands on some! Jeez…

Seriously, how good is Tim Wilson and cousin Kevin, or is it Geoff?

Few of us silly old duffers had a bloody clue about “franking credits” until Tim and cousin Geoff started jumping up and down championing the unique advantage of owning shares with “franking credits”. And how good is Australia … the only country in the world to offer a cash reward!

Tim took care of the Parliamentary Inquiry and the town hall meetings focussing on the high retiree states of Tassie and Queensland. Geoff harnessed his travelling roadshow, Wilson Asset Management, and headed up north to spread the word. Between them, they sparked ire in the hearts of Queenslanders and Tasmanians. Not only would they lose all that free money, but the world as they knew it would end. Worked a charm.

Post-election, Geoff was itching to congratulate himself for alerting the voters about franking credits. And avoiding Armageddon. Claimed his campaign helped deliver a fatal blow to Labor’s hopes of election. But he’s too modest by half. Thanks to the Wilson boys, not one of the nearly four million over 65s would be now be unaware of the “free money”gig when they retire. What a legacy, boys!

So, now we oldies have been enlightened, have we shown our gratitude, especially to Tim?  Such a formidable force for good should surely have been promoted to cabinet!  What’s wrong with ScoMo? This reporter still remembers saluting Tim for duking it out(single-handedly, mind) against the Labor Government’s “plain packaging” proposals for ciggie packets.

Wilson the Younger stormed the airwaves on behalf of Big Tobacco, clocking up 13 radio interviews in one day, a robust opinion piece in The Australian, and managed to pop up, fresh as a daisy, on prime time 7.30 Report that night. Be afraid, he warned. Be very afraid. This outrageous plan would cost the public $3 billion in compensation! If our government took away a company’s logo, it could be seen as stealing! Good to see Tim working with the government and on our side now!

So, on 22 May, I put out a Tweet to gauge the level of gratitude to Tim. It had over 10,000 impressions in the first day. By next day, over 20,000. Then when Westy got into the act, he upped the score to 67,500 impressions, 3,700 engagements, 1750 link clicks,1000 likes and over 600 RTs — in just one day.

I was personally inundated with responses (especially after an interview on ABC Radio Sydney yesterday). Was a spot worried I’d be seen as a self-serving, greedy oldie, you know, one of those “solipsistic slackers” that journos like Bernard Keane like to target. There was the expected bit of unfriendly fire —  but, by and large, I could tell the Tweeps were genuinely grateful to Tim. “Geoff” reported that his superannuation fund adviser told him they’d been bombarded with clients asking about this “gift of free money” and how could they access this?

So, does anyone in Australia now NOT KNOW they can get #FreeMoney for investing in things like banks if they’ve retired and want to set up their own fund? And the more of you who buy shares, the more the shares will go up! Double whammy! Win, Win! Whoohoo! As I said, “how good is Tim Wilson?” Get into it, guys. Follow me!

If you still want the nitty gritty on those franking credits, check out our Kitchen Table series by the redoubtable Westy who has translated complicated financial bafflegab into simple words that even I can understand (I call it “Franking Credits for Dummies”).

Editor’s Note: Treasury found up to 230,000 pensioners would have been affected by Labor’s original policy. “The value of franking credits refunded has increased from $1.9 billion in 2005-06 to $5.9  billion in 2014-15,” Treasury found. It is now projected to increase to $8 billion a year although the AFR found there were $16 billion in franking credits generated in the recent earnings season on the ASX.


Sandi Keane is MW editor-in-chief and was formerly editor and environment editor at Independent Australia.

She has also conducted corporate investigations, principally into the energy and media sectors. Her investigation into the anti-wind lobby and Waubra Foundation was used to support Labor’s Clean Energy Bill, thus, making it into Hansard.

Sandi holds a Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Melbourne.

Describing herself as a “Twitter tragic”, Sandi has tweeted for ABC’s Lateline as well as the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. You can follow her on Twitter @jarrapin.

She has a quantity of franking credits in her SMSM (managed by an ethical fund manager) and, until recently, never knew how they got there.



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