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Transcript of interview with David Koch: Seven, Sunrise: 26 October 2010: John Howard; banks; Australian Stock Exchange

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Joe Hockey, MP  Shadow Treasurer  Member for North Sydney 




DAVID KOCH: Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey was a Minister in the Howard Government. He joins us now. Joe, good morning to you.

JOE HOCKEY: Good morning Kochie

KOCH: Should the former PM be targeted like this even though he’s out of politics, he’s a private individual and such.

JOE HOCKEY: No, it was a rather cowardly act from some mug in the audience. He couldn’t even throw a shoe straight so he’s better off using words rather than throwing something at a person to try and make his point.

KOCH: We’ve had a couple of emails from people saying ‘yes, John Howard is a private individual but he has put himself back in the limelight so he should expect to cop criticism’.

HOCKEY: Well violence is the last resort of a coward and anyone who tries to use violent behaviour against another person in the course of discussion is, quite frankly, a coward himself. I am glad he was thrown out of the audience and you move on.

KOCH: Totally agree. Let’s move on. Your big issue is some of the banks will announce their annual profits this week - over the next couple of days - they are expected to be huge. You believe the banks are out of control and you want an inquiry. What should that inquiry focus on?

HOCKEY: Well ultimately it should focus on more competition Kochie. We’ve missed out on a massive round of competition in the last few months and with the effective demise of an independent St George Bank, the demise of Bank West, Aussie, Wizard, with RAMS Home Loans no longer independent active participants. I would say to you that without competition Australians are facing, in particular, four major banks that are making bigger and bigger profits and are seeking the opportunity to gouge home borrowers. I think we need to do something. The Treasurer has had 31 warnings. He has warned them 31 times ‘do not go further than the RBA’ and they just ignore him.

KOCH: Okay, I was at a function on Friday night. I sat at the same table as the bosses of the four big banks - you weren’t their favourite person in discussions on Friday night. They are saying that this country benefits from strong banks. That is what they are trying to be: strong banks giving good returns to shareholders.

HOCKEY: We agree with that. In fact I was a Financial Services Minister in the Howard government that helped to ensure that that was the case through the regulation and laws I put in place. We reduced the heavy burden of regulation but we had better regulation. I would say to you Kochie: the Australian banks are in a privileged position. Taxpayers have been supporting them with funded guarantees, taxpayers have been supporting them with investments in some of their funding markets. Now is the time for banks to give something back. We need a proper, full scale review of the financial system so that everyone can understand exactly where financial services is going to take us over the next few years.

KOCH: And we have helped the banks out during the global financial crisis and there is a fine line between strong banks and a gravy train… isn’t there?

HOCKEY: Absolutely.

KOCH: You just get that feeling. You were Finance Minister in the Howard government and one of your favourite topics or projects was to make Australia a financial hub for the Asia Pacific region. Yesterday we had the Singapore Stock Exchange launch a takeover, they are calling it a merger, it’s basically a takeover of the Australian stock exchange. Should that go ahead? Is that in the national interest?

HOCKEY: Well to be fair to the ASX, they have offered us a briefing, we will receive that briefing. I want to hear from Wayne Swan why the Australian Stock Exchange being taken over by the Singapore Stock Exchange is in our national interest.

KOCH: Well do you think it is? We want to hear from you too.

HOCKEY: Well as you said I have long championed Australia as a financial centre for the Asian region. Now as much as Singapore are our very, very good friends they are also our competitors for financial services jobs in the region. I would want to know exactly from the ASX, and I want to know and Tony Abbott wants to know from Wayne Swan and the government how is this going to help us to be a financial centre?

KOCH: From what you are saying - and you’re being very diplomatic because you don’t want to offend the Singaporeans - you’re saying you don’t believe it should go ahead, you’ve got concerns, and you have got to be convinced.

HOCKEY: Well it is effectively a monopoly Kochie. The ASX, effectively… There are a couple of other smaller exchanges but really it is a monopoly. It is iconic for Australia. I want to know how we are going to benefit out of it. We have got to be mature about this. We welcome investment, it’s a good thing. Even Channel 7 is majority foreign owned these days. We can’t be critical of foreign ownership but we have got to consider carefully when a monopoly in the Australian marketplace is being bought out by an overseas interest whether that is in our interest. That is the point I am making.

KOCH: Alright, I have got to be diplomatic on the Channel 7 ownership so I know where you’re coming from. Thanks for doing that. Joe, good to see you.

HOCKEY: Good to see you too Kochie