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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9349

Banking and Financial Services

Senator KIM CARR ( Victoria ) ( 1 4 : 01 ): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the Prime Minister, who only eight days ago, said, 'No, we're not having a banking royal commission.' How does the Prime Minister explain his capitulation to the National Party?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:01): It's scarcely necessary to say, in relation to a question coming from, of all people, Senator Kim Carr, that I don't accept any of the premises of the question. Nevertheless, I can advise the Senate that the Prime Minister announced this morning that the government will establish a royal commission into the alleged misconduct of Australia's banks and other financial services entities. The commission will consider the conduct of banks and insurers, financial service providers and superannuation funds, not including self-managed superannuation funds. It will also consider how well equipped regulators are to identify and address misconduct. It will not inquire into other matters such as the financial stability or the resilience of our banks.

The government has taken this action to further ensure our financial system is working efficiently and effectively. All Australians have the right to be treated honestly and fairly in their dealings with banking, superannuation and financial services providers. The highest standards of conduct are critical to the good governance and corporate culture of those providers. The royal commission will take a sensible, efficient and focused approach, investigating misconduct and practices falling below community standards and expectations. It will not be a never-ending lawyers' picnic. Let me make this clear: we will ensure the commission will not defer, delay or limit any proposed or announced policy legislation, or regulation that we are currently implementing. The government will complement the existing actions—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, please resume your seat. Senator Macdonald, on a point of order?

Senator Ian Macdonald: I'm seriously trying to hear what the minister is saying. Could you ask the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, just for today, not to interject continuously or, alternatively, could you ask the leader to speak up? I simply cannot hear Senator Brandis over Senator Wong's continuous shouting and screeching.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, without naming any particular people, there was a lot of noise coming from the left. I was calling the left of the chamber to order whilst Senator Brandis was answering the question because I could not hear him either. Senator Hinch?

Senator Hinch: This is very unusual, but I actually support what Senator Macdonald said.

The PRESIDENT: It wasn't a point of order, Senator Hinch. Could I ask senators, again, to keep in mind courtesies to their colleagues so we can hear the answer.

Senator BRANDIS: Where was I? Mr President, the commission will complement the existing actions the government is taking in the sector which I've explained to senators in answer to questions earlier in the week. This includes establishing the new one-stop shop for resolving customer complaints, significantly bolstering the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's powers and resources. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, a further supplementary question.

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:04): While the Prime Minister's press conference did not mention the National Party, he did claim that his backflip on the banking royal commission demonstrated leadership. Isn't it clear that the leadership was actually demonstrated by the 14 coalition MPs and senators who were willing to cross the floor, the National Party room's revolting against the government's position and the Labor Party, who have been fighting for a royal commission for some 601 days?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:05): Senator Carr, this is the eighth day on which the Senate has been the only chamber which is sitting and, therefore, the eighth day on which this is the chamber, and only this chamber, where the Labor Party gets to ask questions about policy. This is the eighth day on which you haven't asked a single question about policy, not one. Not one policy question in eight days because, Senator Carr, you are so obsessed with playing the politics that you always miss the point. Senator Carr, the reason the government established this royal commission was to protect the integrity of our financial system, in particular, from some of the wild and foolish statements that had come from your side of politics. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, a final supplementary question.

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:06): Isn't Mr Christensen right to question why:

… it took … a number of National Party backbenchers to drag the prime minister kicking and screaming to this decision.

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:06): That's what your deputy—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Stop the clock please. Order across the chamber! Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: I want to correct my answer from a moment ago. Senator Wong did yesterday actually ask me quite an important foreign policy question about North Korea. It was not one of those contentious questions; it was a constructive question asked not in a partisan spirit. Speaking of a partisan spirit, Senator Carr, why are you so obsessed with politics? You never, ever asked about policy—

Senator Wong: My point of order goes to relevance. It was a direct quote from a member of the government that the leader of the government has been asked whether or not he agrees with and whether Mr Christensen was right. So the commentary, whilst interesting, is actually not directly relevant to the question.

The PRESIDENT: I will note that there was a little bit more commentary in the question than that, Senator Wong, but I remind the minister of the question. Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you. Senator Carr, what I support is the decision the government has made. I've explained to you in answer to your first supplementary question why the government felt that it needed to make this decision—because a number of very wild and foolish statements were being made about the Australian financial system. It is very important that the government move to protect the integrity of the financial— (Time expired)