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Transcript of interview with Kristina Keneally and Peter van Onselen: Sky News AM Agenda: 13 March 2017: fallout from WA election; Government considering changes to negative gearing; Banking Royal Commission

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SUBJECT/S: Fallout from WA election, Government considering changes to negative gearing, Banking Royal Commission.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: Let’s bring in Matt Thistlethwaite, he’s the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and he’s also the father of four, so thanks for taking time away from your children…

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Why aren’t you with your family at this important point in time Matt Thistlethwaite?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY: Because I’m here talking to you guys Pete, would not prefer to be anywhere else… I will say on this issue it’s a juggling act, it’s a struggle for families like mine, we do have four young children, my wife works part-time, so we rely a lot on family, we rely a lot on baby sitters and other families at the school that my kids go to to help juggle the time commitments, so I completely respect Kate Ellis’s decision.

VAN ONSELEN: Tanya Plibersek said that she was putting her family first, as part of her decision, do you disagree with the way that she’s characterised that?

THISTLETHWAITE: No I don’t, I think that she is putting her family first…

KENEALLY: Would you say that she put her family second previously?

THISTLETHWAITE: No, no-one should criticise anyone for putting their family first…

KENEALLY: But my point is Matt would you say for the last few years Kate Ellis has put her family second?

THISTLETHWAITE: Look the point… the problem with federal politics is it’s in Canberra, you have to go to Canberra, and that means time away from family, if you’ve got young kids it means you have to take them with you, now we sit late into

the night, you’re in meetings all day, you’ve got to go back and forth between the Parliament, sometimes it’s not conducive to raising young children unfortunately, now we’ve made some changes and advances but there’s probably a long way to go.

VAN ONSELEN: The sitting you talk about, the isolation, I mean irrespective of where we might agree or disagree, it’s a problem though right, that we live in a modern era that can be solved, why does a Parliamentary life require working until the early hours of the morning rather than in normal business hours?

KENEALLY: Let me jump in here Matt I have to say in my time as a minister, in my time as Premier, it wasn’t Parliament that was the biggest problem, it was the events every night of the week, Saturday morning, and you’re not going to solve that problem, it’s the doing these TV interviews that we drag them in here for, and you’re not going to solve that problem.

THISTLETHWAITE: It is a combination of both, you can reform I think we do need to reform, the NSW Parliament have introduced much more family friendly hours where they don’t do those late night sittings, you’re right about the weekends and the evening work, a lot of the weekend stuff I take my kids to them now if they’re community events and I get my staff to say is it ok if Matt brings his kids along?

VAN ONSELEN: I reckon that’s even more unfair to your children.

KENEALLY: I was going to say you wait until they’re about 12 or 13 they’re going to suddenly decide that’s not a good idea any longer. But anyway Matt let’s move on to issues in your portfolio and then taking the nation’s interest in politics today. Let’s start with the WA election, my colleague here he thinks penalty rates had nothing to do with the result there…

THISTLETHWAITE: Clearly they did, I spoke to a number of my Western Australian colleagues and they were saying on the ground penalty rates were a big issue.

VAN ONSELEN: So this isn’t Mark McGowan’s victory to be able to claim? I mean he basically had to ride in on Bill Shorten’s coat tails on penalty rates?

THISTLETHWAITE: There were a number of factors involved in this election, the time issue was one of them, that doesn’t account for the loss but Mark McGowan’s leadership and the fact he stood for a few things, they had some good plans on generating business on growing their economy, on working with community groups, these were all factors that played a part and the One Nation deal with Pauline Hanson and her comments on Putin and vaccination wouldn’t have gone well for the Liberal Party…

VAN ONSELEN: But Mark McGowan wouldn’t have done as well as he did based on the campaign he ran on state issues had it not been for penalty rates and the campaign that federal Labor had run?

THISTLETHWAITE: I think that the campaign on penalty rates that Labor has run certainly assisted Mark McGowan but it wasn’t the dominant factor, I think

predominantly I think people look to the person that they’re electing and the team that they’re electing and if they’re not competent, if they’re not able to annunciate a plan for the state they’re not going to get elected no matter what the dominant issue might be and Mark McGowan has been stable, he’s shown leadership, and he’s developed a good plan for Western Australia over the course of the last five years and I think that the Western Australian people saw that on the weekend and that’s why they’ve elected them.

KENEALLY: Can we talk about apparently Treasurer Scott Morrison is considering curbing those excesses on negative gearing again, surely Labor will be claiming that as a victory if that comes to pass?

THISTLETHWAITE: Look I’ll believe it when I see it, we’ve had a couple of instances where Turnbull and Morrison have been talking about negative gearing but then Tony Abbott makes a speech saying we shouldn’t be increasing taxes and they come out and back off. In my view if you’re not doing something about negative gearing you’re not fair dinkum about improving housing affordability. I had a mortgage broker in my office this morning saying house price increases in our area are out of control and he’s got clients that just can’t get into the housing market anymore because they’re beat out by investors every time so unless you’re doing something about negative gearing you’re not fair dinkum about housing affordability.

VAN ONSELEN: But does negative gearing really move the needle, I mean what is it going to do is it going to slow down the growth rate in housing stock? Or is it going to bring house prices down?

THISTLETHWAITE: Well under our policy Peter negative gearing would be restricted prospectively to new development, so off the plan developments if you like, therefore for first home buyers who tend to go in at the bottom of the market and existing stock, they’re not competing with those investors so you levelling the playing field and they get an opportunity competing against people with similar circumstances to them rather than a playing field that’s levelled against them because of negative gearing for investors.

VAN ONSELEN: But what’s the impact of that though I mean for it to do something on housing affordability by definition doesn’t it have to stop the growth of house prices or bring the price of houses down?

THISTLETHWAITE: Well I don’t think you’re going to see houses go down certainly not in Sydney anyway, there’s a whole host of factors that go into demand and supply for houses like whether or not you’ve got a uni next to you, your proximity to the city, jobs in the area, green spaces, there’s all those sort of things, you’re not going to see house prices go down but over time I think you’re going to see some of the heat come out of the market and it’s going to become more affordable, more stable and you’re not going to get these wild swings and these ridiculous increases that we’ve had in certain markets and on annual figures over the course of the last couple of years.

KENEALLY: Can I ask you about the hearings you’ve had last week in Parliament, quizzing the CEOs of the big four banks, you were part of that, I assume the banks

know everything’s hunky-dory now, these hearings have improved their behaviour and there’s nothing really to see here.

THISTLETHWAITE: Well that’s the picture they’d like to paint Kristina, but we all know that’s not the truth and what we’ve seen with these hearings and over the course of the last couple of years is that the scandals, the rip-offs continue and the Australian public is just wholeheartedly sick of it, they want a Royal Commission because they know there’s a problem with banking culture in Australia and some of the practice that banks undertake particularly around commission on wealth management products and insurance and alike, and they believe that we need an independent person to come in and have a good look at the industry and recommend changes to Government that will restore confidence and stability to the sector.

KENEALLY: Let me ask you had a fairly heated conversation with Ian Narev head of CBA particularly around the issue of CommInsure, in that type of circumstance it must be quite electric the atmosphere there when you’re having those sorts of exchanges with the head of a major bank, particularly when you push him on the fact that they didn’t seem to interview any customers of CommInsure.

THISTLETHWAITE: Look I didn’t intend to go in and fire-up so much I must say but Ian Narev made me so angry in the responses that he was giving and the fact that in talking to victims I knew he was misleading us and that he wasn’t really giving a full picture, an account of what’s occurred in CommInsure and that they’d paid Deloitte to do this inquiry into whether or not there was a problem in CommInsure and clearly there was, and Deloitte hadn’t spoken to any of the victims, the very reason for being, the reason that you offer these services are for your customers, and he had all these problems with thousands of cases, compensation having to be paid and they didn’t even talk to the victims, that’s why I compared it to the Yes Minister episode there the minister visits a hospital that has no patients, it’s ridiculous.

VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you about the banks, you’re going to have a Royal Commission if you win Government, it looks like you’re going to win Government so we’re going to have a Royal Commission, if that happens is it possible that Labor might look at legislation to break up the banks, we are always being told the banks are too big to fail and then you throw in some of these scandals that pertain to the arms of their practice beyond just straight up retail banking which of course is how we remember these institutions first starting, they’re so big because of the added on elements but Governments could easily through legislation break that up?

THISTLETHWAITE: Yeah there’s a whole host of people who argue that we should break up the retail banking sections so deposits and mortgages from the wealth management, the insurance that they’ve added on over recent years and it’s an approach that was taken in the US, it was watered down unfortunately by Bill Clinton, it’s something that they’re doing in the UK and there’s calls for it to happen in Australia, that’s something that would be aired and looked at in a Royal Commission, and someone that was independent of Government, that was an expert could advise the Government on whether or not…

VAN ONSELEN: So it would be on the table but it would be a case for the Royal Commission to delve into the viability of it?

THISTLETHWAITE: Yeah that’s right it would certainly come up in the context of a Royal Commission and would be something that any Government would take advice on.

KENEALLY: Alright well Matt Thistlethwaite we might leave it there so you can get back to your family…

THISTLETHWAITE: I am picking up kids from school this afternoon don’t worry about that. Thanks guys.