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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9379


Senator KETTER (Queensland) (15:57): There is nothing clearer: this is government by the banks, for the banks and of the banks. There is no other conclusion that can be reached as a result of the government's incredible backflip today. It is an important day. There will be many thousands of Australians greeting the news of a royal commission. But they will also be very, very sceptical that it has come to this: within half an hour of receiving a letter from the four major banks—a letter, if you care to read it, setting out all of the prescriptions the banks would like to see in the royal commission—the government has complied, in lightning swift time. It is absolutely incredible. We have a weak Prime Minister and an incompetent Treasurer finally waking up to the fact that their facade, their smokescreen of so-called action, was not the change that victims and the community demanded.

The press conference was a sight to behold. We had the Prime Minister describing the royal commission as 'regrettable' and desperately trying to show off an aura of control when the reality is that this government is in total chaos. We today heard Senator Brandis talk about the fact that the need for the royal commission came about because there were 'wild and foolish' comments being made in the public arena. Since when was it just wild and foolish comments that went so far as to undermine confidence in our financial system? This clearly overlooks the many, many scandals that have taken place over some five to 10 years, which have been ignored by this government.

Dennis Shanahan wrote in The Australian today, 'No leader who has to say he is leading, is leading.' Even at this late hour, this weak Prime Minister and his incompetent Treasurer are still trying to run a protection racket for the big banks. They still want to ramraid the budget with $60 billion of corporate tax cuts, which significantly benefit the big banks. This government is at the bidding of those major banks. Only when the major banks wrote to the government did it finally choose to jump on this issue. When the big banks say, 'Jump', this Prime Minister asks, 'How high?'—don't worry about consulting with the banking victims about the terms of reference. What an insult to those people who have fought so hard for justice.

It just goes to show who has the ear of this government: it's not the ordinary people who've been ripped off; it's the big banks. This government has no excuse for not hearing the voices of these people. It's the work of this Senate over a number of years that has highlighted some of the most egregious examples of banking misconduct. It's amazing to me, as a senator who's been involved in the process, that a government can have such a hard heart when it comes to listening to ordinary Australians yet when it comes to Collins Street getting on the phone or dropping a line we see immediate action. And the government could be in no greater chaos than it is today. Let's be clear: the relationship between the Nationals and the Liberal Party has broken down. Day by day we see the sniping, the games and the disunity. No-one could be blamed for thinking this government is nothing but a rabble. It's clear to me that the Nationals party members have given up on being in government and have given up on the Liberal Party because they know deep down that the government wants to stand up for the big banks and not ordinary Australians.

I just want to touch on those scandals that have emerged. Where was the Prime Minister when each of those occurred? He was still running the protection racket for the banks. If you want to take a snapshot of just one of the banks, let's look at the CBA—CommInsure and the denial of insurance claims. It took a whistleblower to expose what is really going on: refunding CreditCard Plus insurance customers who purchased coverage, refunding home loan protection insurance customers, ongoing discussions with ASIC over the regulator's concern about advice given to Essential Super customers, and charges on disputed card transactions. And let's not forget the AUSTRAC scandal: 53,000 breaches of our anti-money-laundering legislation.

And that's just one bank. Those who are interested can read the submission by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees to the Economics References Committee for a more complete list of banking scandals. So, even the banks have now acknowledged the need for action: the recent spate of sackings for misconduct; the removal of ATM fees in a desperate attempt to buy back goodwill. And now we have a government weakly— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.