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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8856

Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (21:25): I am pleased to rise to speak on this motion proposed by the member for Melbourne that there ought to be a royal commission into the question of the allegations which have been made concerning the Reserve Bank of Australia and its subsidiaries.

The issue before the House this evening is not whether serious allegations have been raised about the conduct of individuals involved with the Reserve Bank or its subsidiaries. It is true that serious allegations have been raised. The issue is not whether the Reserve Bank of Australia or its subsidiaries should comply with the law. Of course they ought to comply with the law, be that in Australia or in any other jurisdiction around the world in which that organisation, its subsidiaries or its officials or executives are operating. The issue is not whether there is a need for this matter to be investigated. If allegations of this degree of seriousness have been made and have been reported then clearly there is a need for them to be investigated. The issue is not whether on this side of the House we take this matter very seriously. Clearly, we do take this matter very seriously and, as the House has already been informed, the member for Moncrieff has been assiduous in pursuing this matter in the House Standing Committee on Economics, asking a number of questions about it because it does raise a very serious question of public interest. The issue is not whether the Reserve Bank of Australia is a major economic institution in this country. Of course the Reserve Bank of Australia is an institution of the very first importance to economic management and to the economic security that Australians rightly expect the government to provide.

The issue before the House, which is encapsulated in the notion that we are considering, is a far more narrow and precise issue. It is this: what is the right process to investigate and to pursue the allegations which have been made? As the House is well aware, this matter is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police. I emphasise that on this side of the House we make no comment about the merits of that process and of course all individuals involved are entitled to the presumption of innocence. I simply make the point that there is a process being carried on as we speak by a federal government agency, the Australian Federal Police, in relation to the allegations which have been made and so therefore, against that backdrop, the question before this House tonight is a very simple, clear one: is there a case to overlay that process which is presently underway with an entirely new and separate process, the process embodying and involving a royal commission?

A royal commission ought not to be set up lightly. There is a high bar that must be met before any government should commence to establish a royal commission. There must be a demonstrated view that the existing mechanisms for investigating the matter are inadequate. There must be a justification. There must be a basis for granting the coercive powers which royal commissions typically have. Royal commissions typically have the capacity to deal with witnesses in a way which denies them many rights of procedural fairness that are available to a witness in an ordinary traditional judicial proceeding. If you are to set that higher standard, if you are to establish a body with these out of the ordinary powers, you need to demonstrate that there is a case to do that and that the established processes are not sufficient, are not adequate, to deal with the allegations which have been made. You have to do more than say that there are serious questions which need to be investigated. You have to demonstrate that the existing processes of investigation which, as the House is aware, involve the Australian Federal Police are not adequate. The simple point I make is that that has not been demonstrated.

Debate adjourned.