Australian banks are urging state and territory governments to adopt consistent laws on powers of attorney to prevent elder financial abuse.
State and federal Attorneys-General are meeting today to consider a scope for a national register of power of attorney instruments.
“This meeting presents an opportunity to finally get this right”, said ABA CEO, Anna Bligh.
“Financial abuse is a serious and far-reaching problem. Elderly customers and those with a disability are most at risk. Nationally consistent laws are vital in order to protect these customers.”
The ABA is calling on governments across Australia to establish:
- Power of Attorney laws which are the same across the country and protect people from this kind of abuse.
- A National Power of Attorney (POA) register to check if POA documents are legitimate and current.
- Somewhere to report abuse in each state that can investigate and act.
This follows the 2017 recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission report into elder abuse, and a commitment by Attorneys-General in 2019 to set baseline minimum standards for Power of Attorneys and create a mandatory national online register for powers of attorney.
“It's high time that this important reform was delivered”, Ms Bligh said.
Currently, Power of Attorney laws and their protections are different in each state and territory, with no register to track who has power of attorney over whom.
Governments can do more to help older people protect themselves and prevent elder financial abuse.
The national register is a recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into elder abuse.
The introduction of a register will greatly assist in safeguarding older and vulnerable people’s financial status by providing a reliable single source of information to verify the authenticity and currency of an instrument.
It is critically important for our nation that all governments are doing all within their power to help elderly people who are at risk of abuse in our community.