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Fired-up CommBank CEO points finger as banks and supermarkets cop heat

Matt Comyn wants more scrutiny on the big-name tech companies who operate in Australia.

Commonwealth Bank’s chief executive has ripped into big tech companies for not being subject to the same level of scrutiny for turning a profit as Australian companies, like the big banks.

CEO Matt Comyn was responding to a question about his company’s recent performance and its half-year profit of $5 billion, but he said that paled in comparison to the likes of Apple’s $12 billion in 2022.

Banks and supermarkets have been in the public’s crosshairs as Aussies call them out for making huge profits while increasing interest rates and prices on everyday items during a cost-of-living crisis.

Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn
Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn said tech companies need to be put under the same scrutiny as banks and supermarkets in Australia. (Source: Getty)

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There are now official investigations into allegations of price gouging and the head of Australia’s largest bank has pointed his finger at some of the biggest “global monopolies”, asking why people don’t put them under the microscope in the same way.

“I sometimes worry and wonder about the criticisms that are levelled on Australian companies, and particularly large Australian companies,” he told The Australian Financial Review Business Summit.

“One of the things that I find extraordinary is the lack of scrutiny - certainly insufficient scrutiny - across some of the tech companies, in particular, which have large businesses in Australia.”

Comyn compared Coles’ profit margin of 2.5 per cent to Apple’s 36 per cent and said companies like these also needed to be held accountable. He also questioned how the tech giant only paid 4 per cent tax after earning $12 billion in Australia in 2022, while the Commonwealth Bank paid 36 per cent in tax.

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The banking chief executive said global tech giants didn’t have the same level of transparency as local businesses.

“I absolutely question and wonder why,” he said. “These are the undisputed world champions of Kabuki theatre and I think they should be subjected to a lot more scrutiny in Australia.”

Former treasurer Peter Costello also spoke at the summit and aimed his criticisms at Meta for pulling out of a deal to pay media companies to host their content, describing the move as an “existential moment for Australian media”.

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The agreement was worth $70 million a year and existing deals are set to expire in 2024.

“The [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] said that these were global monopolies that needed to be subject to regulation to ensure that you could have proper negotiation with them,” Costello said.

“If our media goes the way of everybody being drawn onto the platforms with free content, unedited content, being put up on it, then you won’t have anybody investing in reputable media … it is a very, very important issue that I would say everybody in this room has an enormous interest in the outcome.”