Monday, 20 August 2018
Questions without Notice
Financial System Inquiry
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Minister, the current royal commission into misconduct in the financial sector has opened the eyes of all Australians to the deliberate detrimental conduct by banks in regard to their management of their clientele. Out of approximately 6,000 submissions, only four farmers have been granted the opportunity to speak before the commission. Is it the minister's opinion that those four representations could possibly give the commissioner a sufficient insight and a full understanding of all the issues those farmers have had to face so that the commission can make meaningful recommendations?
I thank Senator Hanson for that question. A royal commission operates entirely independent from government. And, as has been made clear by the government throughout, that is a key feature of a royal commission—that it is independent from government, and the royal commissioner makes his judgements on how he conducts the inquiry absolutely independently from government. In terms of the time frame for the royal commission, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, myself and others are on the public record as indicating that if the royal commissioner provides advice to the government that he needs more time then we would of course grant that. But it is really a matter for him.
I wrote to the Prime Minister on 23 July 2018 with a request to extend the time and also to extend the terms of reference to include receivers, managers and liquidators in this request. The response was that the royal commission is independent from government and the manner in which the royal commissioner operates is a matter for the commissioner. Wasn't it your government that actually put the terms of reference and the time— (Time expired)
Yes, it was indeed the government that selected the royal commissioner, who by all accounts is doing a very good job. It was the government that determined the terms of reference. But, that having been done and the royal commission inquiry being underway, the operation of the royal commission is now entirely a matter for the royal commissioner. He acts independently from government. But if he were to make a recommendation to the government that he needs more time, or any other recommendation, it would of course be acted upon by the government in the appropriate way.
Why will the government not respond to the thousands and thousands of farmers and other Australians who want this commission extended to include liquidators, receivers and people who have done wrong by them? Why will you not put your recommendations to the commission to extend the inquiry to include those people who need to be brought before the commission?
The royal commission is obviously considering a lot of submissions, a lot of representations. The royal commissioner is required to act independently from government and is best equipped to make relevant judgements. If he were to make certain recommendations to government, the government would of course act on them as appropriate.