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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9644


Senator WATT (Queensland) (15:26): I rise to also take note of the answers to the questions posed by Senator Ketter regarding the banking royal commission. The banking royal commission is something that one side of politics has been totally consistent on since before the last federal election. The cause of a banking royal commission is something that federal Labor has been taking up for some time. We did not need a disastrous vote in the Queensland election, such as we saw from the LNP, to prompt us into action. In fact, Labor has moved around 23 times, in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, to establish a banking royal commission. On each and every one of those occasions, the Liberal and National parties voted together to block it from going ahead. I think there is no policy area—and there are many you can choose from—that demonstrates more clearly the weakness and ineffectiveness of the National Party representatives that come down here from Queensland, supposedly to stand up for people in regional Queensland, than this one.

Every time that Labor pushed for a banking royal commission and put forward a motion to establish one, either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, not only did the Liberals vote it down but who voted with them on every single one of those 23 occasions? It was the National Party representatives from Queensland. That's how committed they've been to establishing a banking royal commission—each and every time they voted with Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister, to block these attempts from going forward. It's not really that surprising because we've seen exactly the same behaviour from them on a multitude of issues. Every time the Prime Minister and his Liberal Party colleagues have voted to grant tax cuts to business and to millionaires—sending billions of dollars to the top end of town—the Nationals have voted with them. Every time they've voted for cuts to health care, including in regional Queensland, the Nationals have voted with the Prime Minister. Every time the Liberals have voted to cut penalty rates in regional Queensland, the Nationals have rolled in and handed over their votes. The disaster that is the rollout of the NBN across regional Australia—you never hear anything from the National Party, criticising it or putting forward ideas to fix it. They just stand in line, time after time, to support their Liberal Party masters. Again, there is nothing that demonstrates that more than the banking royal commission and the failure of the National Party to take any action to deliver this until very recently.

The reality is that the National Party only started ratcheting up any pressure on this government about a banking royal commission when they got an absolute shellacking in the Queensland election a week and a half ago. Right across regional Queensland, the LNP's vote absolutely collapsed to a point where, for example, in the electorate of Capricornia, the LNP ran third or even fourth in every state seat encompassed by the federal electorate. The same can be said of other regional seats held by National Party representatives, like Flynn and Dawson. That's why we've seen the National Party jump into action: not because they care about regional Queenslanders who are getting ripped off by the banks, not because they want to actually demonstrate their independence from the Liberal Party; the only reason they have acted is that they are terrified they are about to lose their own jobs here in Canberra because regional Queenslanders have woken up to them.

Now the government wants credit for having set up the banking royal commission. We know the only reason they did it was that the Nationals finally discovered their spine and their own mates in the big banks decided to back in a royal commission. They knew the end was in sight. They had to give up the fight against a banking royal commission. They put through the letter to the Prime Minister saying, 'Okay, we'll have a banking royal commission,' and, literally within an hour or so, the Prime Minister was out there giving the banks what they wanted—a royal commission on their terms.

It's interesting. Obviously over the last week we've seen an incredible amount of disunity within the government about the banking royal commission and other issues. But, even after the National Party got their way and got the banking royal commission that they had failed to support Labor on on 23 occasions, the disunity continued. I noticed an article by Paul Kelly in The Australian on 1 December which quoted a cabinet minister referring to the bill put forward by Senator O'Sullivan that was going to establish a banking royal commission. The unnamed cabinet minister described Senator O'Sullivan's bill as 'a train wreck of thought bubbles'. The disunity in the government is still rife. They have no respect for each other. They cannot govern Australia. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Watt. Is it on this matter, Senator Bernardi?