House debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry

4:45 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

A 'populist whinge', a 'reckless distraction', a 'QC complaints desk'—these are the words of the Prime Minister, who, as Treasurer under Malcolm Turnbull, arrogantly rejected Labor's call for a royal commission into the banks. What we also now know, thanks to the leaks pouring enthusiastically from the cabinet, is that the now Prime Minister was the last man standing in the Turnbull cabinet, desperately holding out against a royal commission when those around him had realised that the jig was up. It was not until the banks themselves begged the government to establish a royal commission, because they'd rather one be set up by those opposite than risk the terms of reference being set up by a potential Labor government, that one was finally established. This was a royal commission that this Prime Minister voted 26 times to avoid. Every Australian knows that this is a royal commission that this Prime Minister moved heaven and earth to stop, and he will stand condemned throughout history for it.

The royal commission received 10,323 submissions, many from people whose lives had been ruined. You can grin over there, but lives were ruined—suicides, breakdowns, houses and businesses lost, trust destroyed in institutions that once stood high in public regard. Some of the victims of the malfeasance by banks and financial institutions joined us in this chamber today. These are ordinary Australians whose only crime was to place their trust in people and institutions that did not deserve it. Despite the tight deadline imposed upon it, the royal commission exposed stories of avarice and wanton disregard for the law, and those opposite wanted to give it all a free pass. Those opposite voted 26 times not to hear these stories, not to expose these disgraceful examples of crime and greed.

Many Tasmanians are familiar with the story of Michael and Dimity Hirst, farmers from my electorate, who lost everything eight years ago when ANZ left them destitute. Michael fought to keep his emotions in check when giving his testimony, while Dimity cried in the gallery. Like most Australians, they did not have the resources to fight the banks. The royal commission gave them the chance to tell their story in a forum that mattered. They've received apologies now, but it's all too late. No apology, no compensation makes up for the loss and the emotional trauma. What will help heal the wounds is to implement the recommendations of the royal commission—not in part, not at some time in the future, not with some mealy-mouthed excuses about why is not the right time. If this government can start and finish legislation to deal with strawberries in one day, then surely, if it is serious about implementing these recommendations, it would be drafting legislation today and agreeing to Labor's requests for more sitting days to get this done—not after the election but now, within weeks, not months.

But this is a part-time Prime Minister, a man so desperate to cling to power and avoid losing a vote on the floor of this parliament that this place is sitting 10 days in five months. Imagine the howls of outrage from those opposite if any blue-collar worker tried that on: 'Sorry, boss; can I do 10 days in five months? That's fair enough, isn't it?' How quickly do you think they would be shown the door? Let's be clear. If this parliament sat its normal hours, the recommendations could be incorporated in legislation and it could be dealt with before the election. This is what Australians want and expect. Australians want real action, not loud and empty words from a Prime Minister who voted 26 times to avoid a banking royal commission.

On this side, we know this Prime Minister and those opposite are dragging their heels on taking action because they are the best friends the banks ever had. They've consistently voted against Labor's attempts to clean up the banking and financial services sectors. They've always put the interests of bankers ahead of consumers. The government recently voted against Labor's amendments for greater penalties and longer jail time for dodgy bank executives. On this side, we haven't forgotten that before those opposite were dragged to this royal commission they wanted to give the big banks a $17 billion tax cut. It's time to put Australians first, the banks second.

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