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Transcript of interview with Michael Rowland: ABC24 Breakfast: 11 April 2016: Labor's proposal for a Royal Commission into the financial services industry; high speed rail; climate change; election campaign

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SUBJECT/S: Labor’s proposal for a Royal Commission into the financial services industry; high speed rail; climate change; election campaign.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: The Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, joins us from Sydney. Chris Bowen, a very good morning to you.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Good morning to you Michael.

ROWLAND: Picking up on Mathias Cormann’s point there, he’s sort of correct there isn’t he? I mean we had the 2014 Financial Services Inquiry led by David Murray. ASIC at the moment has four separate inquiries into different aspects of the baking system. Why do we need another one?

BOWEN: Well the Prime Minister said himself last week that there were very serious issues when it came to bank behaviour and to the treatment of consumers. Malcolm Turnbull is prepared to lecture but he’s not prepared to lead. They Murray inquiry was very different. There was no requirement or opportunity, for example, for a thorough examination of the issues as they relate to whistle-blowers, bank culture when it comes to consumers, when it comes to a situation of scandal after scandal. The fact is, that after every scandal, incident, problem, whatever you choose to call them, we’ve been told that they are isolated incidents and that the bank has changed its culture.

Well it’s time for a thorough look by somebody who an incoming Labor Government would appoint, a thoroughly respected of a, perhaps a former judge or an expert in this field, to go through a lengthy examination. If it’s good enough for other areas to be examined, it’s clearly good enough for the banking sector, for the financial services sector more generally, to be examined thoroughly, in a methodical and calm manner so that we can have a good, robust, profitable banking sector. One that serves the

interests of all Australians and we see an end to what is a continually rolling list of scandals, problem after problem. It’s not just one bank, it’s not just the big four banks. We see problem after problem and it needs a thorough examination.

The Labor Party is prepared to lead, just like we led the debate on so many other issues. If Mr Turnbull is happy to talk about it, to waffle about it, he should be prepared to act. If he won’t, an incoming Labor Government will.

ROWLAND: Have you got somebody in mind as to who might lead that Commission if Labor does win power?

BOWEN: Well that would be an appropriate decision for an incoming Labor Government, for myself and the incoming Attorney-General to have a discussion about it. It wouldn’t necessarily just be one person. There’s provision for more than one Royal Commissioner to be appointed as is the case with the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse. To have more than one appointment and that is a model that the Labor Party would look at very closely in office. But these matters would be appropriately dealt with by an incoming Labor Government after advice from the Attorney-General’s department, et cetera. But if Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison are prepared to act now, they would do so with the full bipartisan support of the Labor Party.

ROWLAND: There are reports today that the Prime Minister is considering funding high speed rail networks in big states like New South Wales and Victoria, as a way of encouraging people of moving out of those increasingly crowed cities like Melbourne and Sydney. Is that a good idea?

BOWEN: Well there’s no doubt that this needs to be on the national agenda. We put it on the national agenda and I fear that today’s announcement looks like the so-called announcement from a few weeks ago, a so-called railway line to Badgerys Creek which was just a thought bubble from the Prime Minister. He said that he would look at it and would think about it, it wasn’t an announcement at all. I fear that today’s announcement may be of a similar nature.

Now Mr Albanese has been very active on this issue; he’s got a Bill before the parliament to establish a Fast Rail Commission, with representatives of the state and territory jurisdictions affected, with broad representations from experts in the field. Parliament is sitting next week. Let’s get on with it and pass that Bill so that there can be a proper discussion. The cost-benefit ratio for fast rail is very good. It’s a high return. There’s a good return to the nation. But it is very expensive of course. One of the most expensive infrastructure projects you could imagine, so it does need to be handled very carefully. Ideas like value capture are certainly part of the conversation, but Mr Turnbull went to Melbourne last week and talked about value capture for the Metro Rail in Melbourne, when that’s already part of the business case. It’s already part of the model. It’s already been factored in. We need to see a bit more than just the odd photo opportunity on a train. We need to see a very well-considered and proper plan. If it is well-considered and proper, Labor would back it.

ROWLAND: The funding options include a so-called tax - a ‘betterment tax’ I think is the official name - on regional centres in particular and perhaps on some outer suburban areas that would benefit from greater rail infrastructure. Is that an idea you think would fly?

BOWEN: We are happy to look at what Mr Turnbull has to say. I think that Value Capture more broadly - which is taking some of the increase in property values, some of the increase in the economics activity and factoring that into the funding model - is worthy of further consideration, particularly with a massive project like this. A betterment tax is one particular element of that, but I think more broadly value capture is something which can be part of this conversation. It would be part of a conversation which we would lead - we have lead - and certainly if Mr Turnbull wants to put a concrete proposal on the table, we’d be happy to look at it, and to work in a constructive fashion.

ROWLAND: Also reports this morning that a Labor government, if elected, would hold an inquiry into the electricity industry which could see the closure, earlier than scheduled, of some of those old coal-fired power plants. Is that on Labor’s agenda?

BOWEN: We have made it clear, the broad elements of our climate change policy. Mark Butler has been consulting very heavily. More than 50 consultations right across the nation. He’s been consulting with myself and the economics team, we’ve been working together on Labor’s climate change policy. It will be announced. I’m not announcing it today. We’re not announcing it today. As you’d imagine, there’s been a range of options canvassed with experts, with industry sectors, with academics. Those options have informed our thought process, our very thorough policy development process, but I’m not going to comment on any particular aspect of that this morning.

ROWLAND: And finally, the ‘faux’ election campaign, Chris Bowen, continues for another week, even before parliament gets back. Do you think - do you fear that by the time the election date is held, July 2nd or later, that it could be a case of a pox on both of your houses, with voters well and truly fed up with the political cavalcade.

BOWEN: Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to inflict the longest election campaign in world history on the Australian people. By the time we get to the end, I think they’ll be judging his waffle and his lack of direction pretty harshly. As far as the Labor party goes, we welcome a federal election. We will be very competitive in that election. We’re leading the debate with the power of our ideas, the power of our policies, and it’s an election we can win. If he wants to hold it on July 2, bring it on.

ROWLAND: We all need lots of patience and lots of tolerance. Chris Bowen in Sydney, thank you very much for you time this morning.

BOWEN: Thank you.