Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Questions without Notice

Banking and Financial Services

2:58 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. After its voting against a royal commission 26 times and former Prime Minister Turnbull's conceding that the government delayed it by 18 months, the government now refuses to recall the parliament to ensure urgent changes to laws in response to the royal commission. Unlike the government, Labor is committed to ensuring the banks know that if they do the wrong thing they will pay the price. Why didn't the government join with Labor to increase jail time for the most serious corporate crimes from 10 years to 15 years imprisonment and to double the proposed cap on financial penalties to half a billion dollars?

2:59 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, in relation to the calling of the royal commission, let me say again: Labor continues to look backwards; we're looking forward. We're taking action to look after the best interests of consumers all around Australia.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

What action?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

The senator interjects, 'What action?' We have legislation in the parliament right now to remove automatic exit fees from superannuation accounts, to protect the interests of Australians saving for their retirement. We're looking forward to your support for that legislation, that unamended legislation.

We also have legislation to increase penalties for white-collar crime, which we can deal with this week. We also have legislation to increase the powers of APRA. We've taken a whole series of measures already in anticipation of the findings of the banking royal commission—among other things, the Banking Executive Accountability Regime. We've provided additional resources to ASIC and to APRA—you name it. We've established the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. The Labor Party are out there pushing for additional sitting weeks but are all the while hoping that it doesn't get up.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McAllister, on a point of order.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, my point of order is relevance. I asked specifically about measures to increase jail time for corporate crimes and to increase financial penalties, and the minister has not responded.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

There was a lot in your question, Senator McAllister, before you got to that, and the minister is allowed to be directly relevant to part of the question. I consider him to be directly relevant.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

The government is taking action. I would also again repeat: 40 out of the 76 recommendations require complex legislation. We will be going through the appropriate process to ensure that there are no unintended consequences. We are still waiting for Labor's position on the banking royal commission. Other than weasel words about in-principle support for the 76 recommendations, we haven't actually had a specific position. In fact, when shadow Treasurer Bowen was asked about how they would deal with various things, he pointed out that they would have to go through proper processes to make relevant decisions. To recall the parliament to deal with legislation that is yet to be drafted is not a responsible use of taxpayer resources and it is not something the government is proposing to do; but, of course, we continue to take strong action to ensure customers around Australia are protected.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McAllister, a supplementary question.

3:01 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

The banking royal commission uncovered unconscionable, corrupt and potentially criminal behaviour in the banking and financial services sector. So why is the government now adding insult to injury with a part-time parliament, which means that the recommendations from the royal commission will not be implemented until after the election?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I reject the premise of the question. We are taking action on all 76 recommendations, but 40 of the 76 recommendations do require the drafting of complex legislation. In order to do that in a proper, orderly and competent fashion, it will involve some engagement with relevant stakeholders. There is no circumstance in which, over the next few weeks, we could sensibly pass legislation to deal with those 40 recommendations, and that is why we are prioritising our actions. We are taking strong action. I have listed some of the measures that we have already taken and are taking in my response to the primary question. We are just getting on with the job, whereas the Labor Party continue to focus on ancient history.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McAllister, a final supplementary question.

3:02 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

Given that this government voted against a banking royal commission 26 times and voted against Labor's attempts to increase jail time for the most serious corporate crimes and double the proposed cap on financial penalties and that it refuses to do its job and recall parliament to change the laws to crack down on the banks, isn't it clear that Mr Morrison and his government are continuing to run their protection racket for the banks?

3:03 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

That is just completely ridiculous. I completely reject it. Actions speak louder than words. Our government is taking strong action to protect consumers, including through legislation that is in front of this chamber this week. If the Labor Party hadn't wasted so much time this week in trying to weaken our borders—in fact, weakening our borders—we would have made much more progress with the legislation in front of us. All I know is that, as I look at senators across the chamber, I am sure that they are praying and praying that the parliament is not recalled, all the while making the political argument in the public domain to score some political points.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.