House debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


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

11:16 am

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to talk about the banking royal commission and to highlight the efforts of one of my constituents, Michelle Matheson. Michelle lives about five minutes from my electorate office. It was good to see her in Canberra last week with many other victims of the banking and financial services sector. Michelle was here to share her story of years of pain and heartache and the devastating impact that bad financial advice and corporate malfeasance has had on her and her family. In the time allocated to me, I want to draw the attention of the House to the courage of Michelle and to how completely out of touch this rotten government is.

When I met with Michelle recently, she explained to me how vital it is that the terms of the royal commission are widened and the duration lengthened. I want to thank her for her steely courage and determination in pursuing the outrageous practices of the lender she was fell victim to. Michelle is a single mother and works three jobs. The impact of the advice and the behaviour she was subjected to has shattered her world and that of her family, particularly her elderly mother. The banking royal commission would not have happened if it were not for Australians like Michelle pressuring the government to hold a full inquiry.

Michelle has been to Canberra before. The current Prime Minister was even asked a question about her particular circumstances in question time. This was whilst he was still denying there was anything wrong with the banking and financial services sector, when he would say, almost on a daily basis, that there was nothing to see here and what a waste of money a royal commission would be. When he was asked about Michelle's circumstances, the current Prime Minister, for at least the next half-hour, arrogantly declared that a royal commission would be of no assistance to her or other victims. He sneeringly stated that all my party could offer her was a royal commission.

I want to note briefly that the likely next Prime Minister, the member for Dickson, voted 22 times to block a royal commission into the banking and financial services sector. The day after the royal commission was announced, he told his mate Ray Hadley on 2GB how regrettable it was and that the commission should focus on industry superannuation funds, demonstrating an obsession held by many conservative ideologues. Conservatives like the member for Dickson wanted the commission to investigate well-performing, transparent industry super funds that work in the interests of their members, not fraudulent banks and financial institutions that have ruined the lives of tens of thousands of Australians. I'm very glad to report to the House that in the two weeks that the royal commission spent examining the superannuation system, they found almost practically nothing of note in the industry super funds. They found that the industry super funds performed incredibly well, much better than every other super fund in the country, that they always acted in the interests of their members and that they were very conscious of the impact of government policy on their members' interests.

In contrast, we saw scandal after scandal around retail superannuation funds, whether it was AMP, where the AMP trustees admitted they couldn't act in the interests of their members because they didn't have control of the third-party contracts they had with other AMP vendors; the ridiculous IOOF revelations; or super fund after super fund in the retail sector gouging members' returns to zero through fees. The member for Dickson's ridiculous ideological attack on industry super funds backfired massively, and just confirmed that the industry super funds deliver great returns for their members, whereas—some retail funds are okay—most retail funds are full of shonks and are just obsessed with ripping off the super funds of people unlucky enough to be members of them.

To be truthful, this new conservative saviour of the Liberals, the member for Dickson, didn't want a bar of the royal commission. Odd as it may seem, he was on a unity ticket with the current Prime Minister in trying to stop it. It doesn't matter who leads this rabble that masquerades as a government. The member for Dickson has the same form as the Prime Minister denying justice for victims of the banking and financial services sector. Indeed, voting to give the banks a $17 billion tax cut at the same time as cutting penalty rates. The member for Dickson may not live in a harbour side mansion, but he certainly is as out of touch with the realities of life for everyday Australians as the current Prime Minister.

Let there be no mistake, this government was dragged kicking and screaming to establish the royal commission into their mates at the big end of town. The Liberals and Nationals have stated on the record that it is regrettable that a royal commission is occurring. It's only because of the courage of my constituent Michelle, and tens of thousands like her who have suffered, that the royal commission has occurred. I pay tribute to her today, and wish her and her family, and all those brave victims fighting for justice, well.