Today I have directed the Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) to invest up to a further $8 billion in Australian residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to support competition in Australia's mortgage market.
This investment is an important part of the Government's commitment to strong and effective competition in Australia's mortgage market.
The Direction is issued under section 62A of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and implements my announcement on 11 October 2009. The Direction also allows for the remaining $246 million of the original $8 billion initiative to be invested.
The Direction sets out the Government's objective in making this investment — that is, to support competition from a diverse range of lenders during the current market dislocation.
By supporting smaller lenders and promoting competition in the Australian mortgage market, this investment is helping to put downward pressure on borrowing costs over time.
The Direction also specifies an additional objective of supporting lending to small businesses. This will allow funds provided under this program to be used by issuers to also support lending to small businesses.
The Government's investments to date in RMBS have supported five non-major Australian banks, four building societies and credit unions, and four non-ADI lenders, allowing them to raise almost $11.4 billion in funding.
These investments in RMBS have enabled smaller lenders to lend at competitive interest rates and maintain a higher level of lending and market share than would otherwise have been possible.
They have also helped to maintain the operation of the RMBS market and preserve its infrastructure. This has been critical to the issuance of RMBS in recent months without the AOFM's support.
Securities purchased under this Direction will be high quality investments, rated AAA or equivalent by one of the major credit rating agencies, and subject to other strict eligibility criteria to be specified by the Treasury Secretary.
My announcement on 11 October 2009 also foreshadowed that Treasury and the AOFM would consult with industry on the merits of delivering part of the additional $8 billion support through a liquidity facility.
Given there are mixed industry views on the merits of a liquidity facility, I am not directing the AOFM to implement a liquidity facility at this stage.
The Direction will be tabled in Parliament out of session shortly.
30 November 2009