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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9355

Banking and Financial Services


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:24): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. On Monday, this minister said:

The problem with a royal commission is that it will take forever and achieve nothing.

What changed between then and now, aside from the banks agreeing to a royal commission?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:25): Senator Bilyk, the fact is that a lot of very irresponsible and very foolish statements were being made about the Australian financial system. There is no doubt that establishing a banking royal commission was not the government's preferred option, for all the reasons I outlined, but the government made a decision, based entirely on the national interest, that we needed to protect and defend the Australian financial system from some of the foolish and extravagant statements that were being made in the course of this debate. For that reason, the government decided that it would accede to the will of many in this parliament to establish a banking royal commission, with very specific terms of reference and set up in such a way that it won't last forever.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bilyk, a supplementary question.



Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:26): My first supplementary question is: why would the Prime Minister capitulate to demands from the CEOs of the big four banks when he was not willing to listen to their victims, Labor or even his own backbench?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:26): The Prime Minister listens to everybody. He mightn't agree with them all, but he listens to everyone. As I said, Senator Bilyk, in answer to your primary question, establishing a banking royal commission was not the government's preferred course, for all of the reasons that I've explained in this chamber earlier in the week and in previous weeks as well. But, in view of the way this debate was developing, the government does have a concern about the effect that some of the wilder and more foolish claims were having on the Australian financial system. For that reason and, at the request of the banks, to staunch the damage that was being done to confidence in the Australian financial system by some of the foolish claims made in the debate, a royal commission with a certain reporting date and specific terms of reference was necessary. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bilyk, a final supplementary question?



Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:27): I would just point out to Senator Brandis that there's a huge difference between listening and taking action. When was the Prime Minister first advised of the shift of the banks' position, and was the meeting of cabinet this morning called prior to or following the decision by the banks to support a royal commission?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:28): I don't know the answer to the first part of your question, because the correspondence of the CEOs of the banks was correspondence to the Prime Minister, not to me. Nor is it the practice of governments of either political persuasion to announce the agenda or program of cabinet meetings.