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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4205


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (18:29): The royal commission is the biggest thing in town, and I feel very strongly that the ramifications of this royal commission are going to be felt for a generation. I'm confident that the commission is doing a great job and that we will see some recommendations that we can drive home.

I'd like to say, Mr Acting Deputy President Williams, while you're sitting in the chair, that when you leave this place, you can hold your head high for what you did to make sure this royal commission happened. We're hearing a lot of commentary and a lot of claiming about the royal commission. I would say that while a number of people in this chamber and the other place helped make it happen, and some important people outside of this chamber—investigative journalists and whistleblowers—also helped make it happen, without yourself and the Greens, it wouldn't have happened.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I knew you might arc up, Senator Cameron. I'm very glad that you did. Let me explain why. Senator Williams and I were both on the original inquiry with Senator Mark Bishop when we decided to call for a royal commission. Unfortunately, the final committee report didn't reflect that clearly, and Senator Bishop personally would have liked to have seen a royal commission. But the Greens were the first party in 2014 to call for a royal commission. We were the first party to campaign for a royal commission, relentlessly. It took us nearly two years, but we did eventually get Labor on board going into the double-dissolution election.

There's plenty of other water under that bridge for another time, but I'd like to say that it was the Greens that created the Trojan Horse, the legislation for a parliamentary commission of inquiry. It was our idea and our legislation which passed this place. It was my private senator's bill that was sent to the other place that enabled the pressure to be brought to bear on the Prime Minister and the banks to actually call a royal commission. If it hadn't been for that legislation—and I thank One Nation and all the senators who supported it—it would never have happened. Once again, there'll be plenty of time to tell the story of the long and winding road to the royal commission at another date, but I think parliament can hold its head high that it did a really good job to try and get this scrutiny of our financial services sector.

The logic to me was always very simple. As a senator, I saw the Senate inquiry processes, the numerous inquiries we all sat on—those of us on the economics committee—and the Senate could never get to the bottom of these issues. We simply didn't use our powers or weren't prepared to use our powers. We certainly didn't have the resources. As good as our people are in the committee system, we could never get to the bottom of it. Even the CommBank inquiry or the ASIC inquiry or the inquiry into forestry management investment schemes or inquiries into financial misconduct—we could never get to the bottom of these issues. All we got were platitudes from executives.

Given the limitations of the political process in the Senate, we were never going to get justice for victims or get substantive legislative change. However, the pressure on the Liberal government to call for a royal commission did lead to some good legislative outcomes in this country in the last few years. Minister O'Dwyer, Mr Scott Morrison and a number of ministers brought legislation to this place to try and improve things, but it was never going to be enough. We actually needed a QC who knew what he or she was doing with the powers and with the resources and with the time to get to the bottom of these issues.

I am concerned that the time frame is too short and that not enough will be done. That's another bridge we can get to when we arrive at it. But I'm very proud to stand in here in this chamber and say today that I was part of something much bigger than myself, much bigger even than our political parties and this institution of the Senate. We've managed to get what I believe will be a far-reaching royal commission into financial services at a time when it was desperately needed. That's all I'll have to say today, but, no doubt, I'll have more to say about this in the future.