Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bills

Major Bank Levy Bill 2017, Treasury Laws Amendment (Major Bank Levy) Bill 2017; Second Reading

1:58 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Major Bank Levy Bill. I will have to stop for question time, but when the bill comes back on I will speak further on it. From the outset, Labor will be supporting the bill. We do have a lot of fights with the government about many things, but we resolved quite early on that we would not stand in the way of the government on this measure. The state of the budget and the need for this measure in relation to budget repair has certainly assisted us in coming to this conclusion. Thanks to this government's budgetary mismanagement, gross debt smashed through the half a trillion mark last week, for the first time in the nation's history. With debt and the deficit blowing out under this government's watch, it would be irresponsible of Labor to take an alternative position. But that does not mean we are going to provide a leave pass for the incompetence of the government and the Treasurer.

These major bank levy bills give effect to the government's 2017-18 budget measure to impose an annual levy on the big four banks and on Macquarie. Applying to banks with liabilities of at least $100 billion, the government estimates the levy will raise $6.2 billion, which is claimed to be both a revenue raising measure and a competition measure. It is worth stepping through some of the issues that we have encountered since this measure was first announced in this year's budget. All of these issues clearly highlight the sheer incompetence of the government and, in particular, the Treasurer. To start out there was the leak to the Australian Financial Review before the budget lock-up commenced. Budget leaks and drops happen all the time—it is part of the usual operation of a government prior to a budget—but generally it is not something as market sensitive as this proposal. The Treasury secretary, when asked about this, said:

… on the basis of what we have been told by our staff, on the basis of informed discussions with my senior executives as to who knew what and when, I would be devastated. I reiterate, I would be devastated, if I had thought that one of my staff had been responsible for this.

Debate interrupted.

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