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Big banks back on the agenda -

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Plans to tackle banks over rising interest rates dominated parliament today but all sides have a
different view on how to reign them in.

Transcript

TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: As the federal Parliament resumed today for its final two weeks of
sittings for the year, plans to tackle the big banks over rising interest rates dominated. But all
sides have a different view on how to rein them in.

The Greens today introduced a private members bill, which the Government and the Opposition will
not support, while next week Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey will bring in his own bill to bolster the
powers of the ACCC to examine claims of price signalling.

The Government says it will announce its reforms next month.

As the parliamentary year draws to a close, MPs and senators also have to deal with some
contentious moral issues, including a Greens-led debate later tonight on same sex marriage.

Political editor Heather Ewart.

HEATHER EWART, REPORTER: As the Prime Minister jetted in this morning from her overseas summits,
the Federal Parliament was bracing itself for the final frenetic two weeks of this tumultuous
political year. One private member's bill after another was being introduced in the House of
Representatives.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: What my bill does, Mr Speaker, is it ensures that these Wild Rivers
declarations cannot take place, cannot have effect without the specific consent of the affected
Aboriginal people.

HEATHER EWART: From Wild Rivers to banking and a push by the Greens to rein in the big banks by
scrapping $2 fees for ATMs, cap exit fees and limit mortgage profit margins.

ADAM BANDT, GREENS MP: Mr Speaker, enough is enough. The Australian taxpayer backed the banks
through the GFC and now it's time the banks gave something back.

WAYNE SWAN, TREASURER: When it comes to the Greens, I believe that they're genuine in their
approach, but they will get the wrong outcome. If you do what they want, we'll end up rationing
credit and a lot of people will miss out.

ABC RADIO HOST: Why do you think the banks aren't listening to you?

WAYNE SWAN: Well the banks are just arrogant in the extreme, completely out of touch. That's why we
need a second wave of competition reforms and we will put those in place.

HEATHER EWART: But not while the Parliament is sitting. The Government plans to announce its own
reforms next month and not a moment before. Like the Opposition, it won't support the Greens'
private members' bill, but predictably enough, the Opposition was trying to force the Government's
hand during Question Time this afternoon.

JOE HOCKEY, SHADOW TREASURER: Why won't the Prime Minister release now her so-called longstanding
plan for more banking competition?

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: It's only since he sat on the Opposition frontbench that he's cared
for one minute about these matters, and I use the terminology "cared for one minute" deliberately,
because it was only one minute's consideration he gave until he ran out and blurted out his plan to
re-regulate interest rates and he's been backpedalling to cover up that up brain explosion ever
since.

HEATHER EWART: Everyone in this building it seems now holds an expert view on the big banks and is
clamouring to be heard. Next week, the Opposition will introduce its own private member's bill to
bolster the powers of consumer watchdog the ACCC to address price signalling. And, before the
session is over, the Greens hope to move to put a two-year freeze on banks being able to increase
interest rates beyond the Reserve Bank rate. It's the dominant theme in a Parliament that today
already had the look of a bunch of over-excited schoolkids on the last day of term.

TONY ABBOTT: I ask the Prime Minister: when does she expect to find her way by setting out some
clear, direct, specific and deliverable policies to stop the tax rises, to stop the cost of living
rises, and above all else, to stop the boats?

JULIA GILLARD: You've gotta give the Leader of the Opposition this: once he's told a slogan by a
focus group, he never deviates from it, never deviates from it. Not once, not ever. Driven by focus
groups every day of the week with his three-word slogans.

HEATHER EWART: And that's pretty much the general tone to expect from here on in in the dying days
of this parliamentary session. They're all ready to go home. But not before a few contentious moral
issues are dealt with, courtesy of the Greens. Later this week, the Parliament will face a move to
reinstate the rights of territory governments to legalise assisted suicide. And, later tonight in
the House of Representatives, members will debate a Greens motion to canvass the views of the
electorate on same sex marriage.

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, GREENS MP: You shouldn't be overly controversial to be asking members of
Parliament to consider going back and engaging and discussing an important issue like this with
their electorates with the people of the communities that they represent.

ADAM BANDT: It's only happening because we are in a situation where no one party has the majority
in Parliament, in the House of Representatives and that means that there is scope for debating
issues like this. One of the things we are hoping is that this will be the next step in the - what
is, as some Labor senators have said, an inevitable reform in this country.

BARNABY JOYCE, SENATE NATIONALS LEADER: Adam Bandt, he's just arrived and he's telling everybody
else how to do their job. This is the Greens canvassing ways to wedge the left wing of the Labor
Party. So, you know, we'll deal with it like that.

HEATHER EWART: It's a tricky issue for many MPs depending on where their electorates are and has
the potential to create serious divisions in both major parties. But it's certainly trickier for
Labor than the Coalition. There's a long list of speakers on both sides who'll address the motion
tonight, including Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull.

The Greens are hoping for a conscience vote down the track, but so far, Julia Gillard and Tony
Abbott are strongly resisting this.

What is the timeframe to bring this on in the Senate? Are you going to delay until you see how all
of this pans out?

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: Well of course we wouldn't be bringing the bill on this year. We've only got
two more weeks left. I would really like to see good support from both Tony Abbott and Julia
Gillard and then concede that the best way forward for their parties, for their members, for their
constituents, for the voters of Australia to have a conscience vote on this issue and when that is
granted and then we can actually have a free and open discussion in the Parliament.

HEATHER EWART: The Greens shouldn't hold their breath for that development, but with some prominent
right-wing Labor members starting to signal support for same sex marriage, they live in hope that
ground may shift at the next ALP national conference, many months away.

As for the Coalition, it seems they're preoccupied with more pressing matters at the moment.

JOE HOCKEY: I'm reluctant to do it, Mr Speaker, but I have raised this previously. Early in the
morning on sitting days, there's a tendency for lawnmowers and air-blowers to be used outside
offices during the course of radio interviews. On one occasion I've actually had to stop the
interview. I know it's hard to believe, Mr Speaker, but I actually had to stop the radio interview
until the noise had passed. ... I again request that we do not have the extraordinary noise of
lawnmowers and various other machinery being used outside our office windows between 7am and 9am.

HEATHER EWART: Maybe it really is time for the summer break.

TRACY BOWDEN: Political editor Heather Ewart.