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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9619

Banking and Financial Services

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. The Prime Minister, for more than 600 days, argued that a banking royal commission 'will do nothing'. But, after last week's backflip, the Prime Minister claimed, in an email to his mail list, that the royal commission would:

… ensure our financial system is working efficiently and effectively for you, for your family, and for our economy.

Which statement does the Prime Minister actually believe?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): The Prime Minister believes everything he says. Senator Ketter, I've tried to explain to you and your colleagues more than once this week, but let me try again. A banking royal commission was not the government's first preference; it was not. But we did arrive at a view last week that, because of some of the very wild language being used in the discussion of a royal commission about the financial system—in particular, coming from your side of politics, Senator Ketter—there was a real risk to the stability of the Australian financial system. For that reason, the government acted, as it ought to have done, to protect the stability and the integrity of the Australian financial system by establishing a royal commission.

It is not, by the way, the royal commission that Mr Shorten wanted, which, as I said a couple of weeks ago, would have gone on for years and achieved nothing, but a focused royal commission with tight terms of reference, an eminent Australian of unimpeachable integrity and expertise to conduct it, and a 12-month reporting date to ensure that it wouldn't go on forever and that it would be able to deal with specific problems and deal with them efficiently. In the meanwhile, while the debate about a banking royal commission was going on, the government announced a series of other measures in relation to the regulation of banks, like executive remuneration, like accountability to parliament, like a complaints procedure to enable those who were aggrieved by the conduct of banks to— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ketter, a supplementary question?

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:02): On Sunday, the Prime Minister said that the banking royal commission will 'provide more sunlight to this industry'. Given the Prime Minister continues to describe the banking royal commission as regrettable, why does the Prime Minister think shining light on the industry is regrettable?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): That's a schoolboy debating trick, Senator Ketter, if I may say so with respect. They're not really inconsistent propositions. What the government has done and the reasons that the government has done it are very clear. It was not our first preference; I've said that to you time and again. It was not our first preference, but, given the way the debate was shaping and given the risk that was perceived, including, by the way, by the banks themselves, to the stability of the Australian financial system, we thought we had to do this. It is the case that there will be transparency and, to use the word you've used, 'sunlight' thrown onto the system, just as there is sunlight being thrown onto the system by all the other measures—more-effective measures—that the government has already taken, like, for example, requiring banks' chief executives to front the House of Representatives economics committee four times a year. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ketter, a final supplementary question?

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:04): Is it any wonder that one Liberal MP has reflected, 'Only we could give the voters what they've been calling for and still make that a vote loser'?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:04): I haven't seen that said. I notice that you haven't put a name to this anonymous, unhelpful, disobliging colleague who is alleged to have said that, so I don't know if anyone said that. I treat unsourced, anonymous remarks with all the seriousness that they deserve.