Opposition raises national interest questions


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26-10-2010 08:02 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


26-10-2010 08:02 AM



26-10-2010 08:38 AM

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2010-10-26 08:02:55

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CURTIS, Lyndal


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Opposition raises national interest questions -

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The shadow treasurer Joe Hockey says he's willing to try to get legislation through the Parliament
to implement his proposed banking reforms. The shadow treasurer also says there are 'national
interest' questions and concerns about the proposed takeover of the Australian Stock Exchange by
the Singapore exchange.

TONY EASTLEY: The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has dismissed as insignificant the Prime Minister's
attack, saying it's like being slapped around the head with a terry towelling hat.

He's also stated that he's willing to try to get legislation through the Parliament to put in place
his proposed banking reforms.

The shadow treasurer has also questioned the proposed takeover of the Australian Stock Exchange by
the Singapore Exchange.

Mr Hockey is speaking here to chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Joe Hockey, welcome to AM.

JOE HOCKEY: Good to be here.

LYNDAL CURTIS: First of all, to the Stock Exchange. Do you have any qualms about the Australian
Stock Exchange being taken over by its Singaporean counterpart?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, look, the Coalition has only preliminary information. We're... we've been offered,
very generously, by the ASX, a full briefing, and we'll see that later in the week.

But, this is a matter of Wayne Swan. And Wayne Swan needs to explain to the Australian people how
it is in our national interest to have the Australian Stock Exchange purchased entirely by the
Singapore Stock Exchange.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Do you think it's in the national interest? Do you think there are any national
interest questions involved in a stock exchange being majority-owned?

JOE HOCKEY: Oh, well, there are. Of course there are, Lyndal. Look, I was the minister for
financial services that gave the Stock Exchange the opportunity to become a listed company, and it
was instrumental in assisting us to promote Australia as a regional financial centre, and that was
in competition with Singapore.

So, in a sense, it is of great concern - unless it can be proven otherwise - that our major
regional competitor is buying out our own stock exchange.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Doesn't it give the Stock Exchange, though, another way into Asia?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, that's true, too. And obviously the memorandum of understanding and previous
agreements they've had in the region have not worked, if this is so necessary, but that's part of
the process that we'll go through.

This is obviously going to have foreign investment implications, and will go to FIRB (Foreign
Investment Review Board), but, ultimately, Wayne Swan needs to explain to us how this is in our
national interest; how this is good for Australia.

LYNDAL CURTIS: So it's up to him to convince you, rather than the Stock Exchange or the Singaporean
Stock Exchange?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, the Stock Exchange itself would be acting in the best interests of its
shareholders, and I can understand that, but it's up to the Treasurer of Australia to act in the
best interests of our nation.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Do you think ordinary people who may not know the intricacies of the deal, or what
it means, would be worried about the prospect of something like the Stock Exchange being

JOE HOCKEY: Well, look, I think people have concerns. I think it'd be terribly wrong for people to
just rail against it because there's foreign ownership. I mean, so much of... this is exactly what we
criticised Kevin Rudd for when he criticised BHP and Rio as, you know, being foreign.

I will not support xenophobia in any shape or form.

But what I say to you is that, we welcome investment, but we also have to make decisions about a
monopoly. I mean, the ASX is effectively a monopoly. And therefore, as a monopoly, is it in our
national interest to have, not only a foreign exchange own it, but a foreign exchange with a
substantial shareholding from its own government.

LYNDAL CURTIS: On the question of the economy more broadly, the Prime Minister has accused the
Coalition of "economic Hansonism", because of calls made by your colleague, Andrew Robb, for the
Government to take action to put downward pressure on the dollar, and your call for action on banks
which raise interest rates above official increases. Is the Opposition going down the populist

JOE HOCKEY: No, we are actually standing up for people; we're standing up on the issues. We're
prepared to take a stand; we're prepared to offer solutions, which is what we have done.

Yesterday, I gave a speech to the AIG conference, which outlined nine proposals. That's a starting
point on how we can increase competition in the banking sector; how we can make sure the banks
don't take advantage of taxpayers, and don't take advantage of their customers, in a way that
diminishes competition.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But you did start the conversation about the banks by talking about punitive action;
about levers that could be punitive.

You've walked back from that. Wasn't it, when you started it, a little bit of old-fashioned

JOE HOCKEY: Well, Lyndal, on 31 occasions, now, Wayne Swan has warned the banks not to go beyond
the Reserve Bank, and they ignore him. And they ignore him. Now, you need to have a government with
gravitas. You need to have a Treasurer with gravitas.

This is a government that has no gravitas.

The fact that Julia Gillard attacked me and Andrew Robb, Kristina Keneally, Barry O'Farrell -
attacked all of us last night, illustrates that it's a government with no gravitas. It was like
being slapped around the head with a terry towelling hat.

It was ridiculous.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The Government has been digging out some old quotes of yours on aspects of banking
reform you raised yesterday: one warning that imposing social obligations on banks comes at a cost
to consumers.

Would the "social compact" you have talked about in recent days come at a cost to consumers?

JOE HOCKEY: No, because what I've suggested is an agreement between the banks, shareholders, the
Government, and the community, that focuses on new directions - new directions for the banking
system in light of the financial crisis.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Would it impose social obligations on the banks?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, no, I don't see social obligations as part of their remit.

But I say this: the fundamental point is that we have lost competition. We have lost significant
amounts of competition. Today, the four major banks, underwritten by the taxpayer - they weren't
when I gave that speech - but now they are effectively underwritten by the taxpayers, with taxpayer

That, now, has changed the entire environment for banking. And if we want to be fair dinkum about
learning the lessons of the financial crisis, now is the time to have a full-scale review and lay
down the foundations for the future of banking in Australia.

TONY EASTLEY: The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, speaking to Lyndal Curtis in Canberra.