7 April 2016
Transcript - #2016043, 2016

Interview with David Speers, Sky News

SUBJECTS: ABCC; Arrium Steel

DAVID SPEERS:

Good afternoon Treasurer, thank you for your time. So, what do you say calls for a Royal Commission into the Banking Sector?

TREASURER:

Well, it strikes me that Bill Shorten is engaging in a massive distraction campaign here. He seems to be unaware that there actually is a regulator, or cop on the beat, when it comes to these issues in ASIC and the demonstration of that is the action that ASIC is taking. The problem is that there isn't such a cop on the beat when it comes to the construction sector and I think it is just a massive distraction from Bill Shorten. Of course where there are serious issues – and there are – that need to be addressed when it comes to the banks or any other group or particular sector of the finance sector then of course and that is what ASIC is for. That is what ASIC is doing and what we are arguing is there needs to be a similar cop on the beat when it comes to the construction sector and the lawlessness that is there which he is quite happy to defend.

SPEERS:

Well, I guess we can get to that, there is already the Fair Work Building Commission in place. Your case is about having a tougher cop on the beat. Bill Shorten, to be fair here, is just saying we shouldn't rule out a Royal Commission. The only ones who actually, the only politicians I know of, who have actually advocated a Royal Commission is Sam Dastyari, but on your side Warren Entsch now and of course John Williams.

TREASURER:

Well, those members are entitled to their views. Let's not forget there are 430 odd thousand people who worked in the finance sector. We had a major review which was done by David Murray and I note that David Murray, who is one of, if not the most, respected person when it comes to these sorts of issues, has not supported that type of a recommendation and I think he makes a lot of sense in coming to that conclusion. Let's not forget that our banking finance sector underpins everything that happens in our economy. It is a well-regulated sector. It is a sector that is incredibly stable and it is the stability of that sector that enabled us to move through the global banking crisis that we went through some years ago. I think the sort of commentary that Bill Shorten is engaged in, I think, does potentially do harm to confidence about that sector. I don't think that is a very helpful thing for him to be doing, particularly when he knows that the banking sector is incredibly strong and incredibly important. For him to be engaging in these sorts of politics around what is such a central element of our financial system, I think, is disappointing. Where there are things that go wrong and where there is bad behaviour and indeed criminal behaviour as the Prime Minister has already said then those attitudes and those crimes and those cultures need to be addressed and I believe that is what is happening, as a result, amongst many but ASIC in particular taking the action that it is. I think we need to see this for what it is. This is Bill Shorten seeking to play politics by talking up his proposal to distract attention from his support for the corrupt and criminal practices we have seen in the building and construction industry which he supports because he won't support the restoring of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

SPEERS:

I just want to be clear on this, Treasurer. Are you ruling out a Royal Commission into the banks?

TREASURER:

Well, we are not proposing one David. We are not proposing one…

SPEERS:

[Inaudible] Are you ruling it out?

TREASURER:

I'm not proposing one, David, so I don't need to rule one out because the Government is not proposing one. It's Bill Shorten…

SPEERS:

Nor is Bill Shorten here, he is just saying that [inaudible].

TREASURER:

[Inaudible]. Well, let's see David. If has got plans for a Royal Commission which the rumours are going all around the place that this is what he was supposed to announce today, let's see what he does, let's see what he does but let's understand why he is doing it. Bill Shorten is doing this because he doesn't, he wants a distraction from the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bills that are being considered in the Senate and he wants to spray a lot of stuff around because he wants to defend the corrupt and criminal practices that exist in our building and construction industry. We have a banking regulator. We have APRA, we have ASIC, we have a very strong banking system in this country which is critical to the transitioning economy that we have and the success of our economy depends on the continued competence and strength of our financial system and I think that is the vein in which David Murray has made his comments and I think David Murray makes a lot of sense.

SPEERS:

Alright, Treasurer just before I let you go. We will be talking to your colleague Chris Pyne more about Arrium Steel but from the Treasurer's point of view, is there any scope, any consideration of direct federal government financial assistance or is this the end of the age of entitlement?

TREASURER:

Well, we've already engaged particularly through the bringing forward of the rail project which places a very big order with Arrium, and that's I think is a very constructive and practical thing that the government has already done, and I commend Minister Pyne but also Tom Koutsantonis down in South Australia and the work that is being done between the commonwealth and the state government to do what is possible in this area. But of course the creditors and now the voluntary administrators will be in there to try and ensure that the business focus of this business can be maintained and therefore support the jobs and support the economic activity of Whyalla. So, we remain completely engaged in this process…

SPEERS:

But on government assistance?

TREASURER:

Well again we're working closely with the state government which is taking the lead on this but we've already acted is my point, we've already taken action, very practical action that would ensure major contracts for steel, as well as the anti-dumping issues that Mr Pyne has addressed, can put that business in the beat possible position to go forward and that's the action that we've taken and we've been very forward learning in doing that and working with the South Australian government…

SPEERS:

And fair enough, but under Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey it was quite clear; no to SPC, no to Qantas and so on. Is this also an end to corporate welfare in relation to Arrium?

TREASURER:

Well David, we're not dealing with any of those proposals at present, because they're matters that are yet to be presented in any sort finite form from voluntary administrators or others. What we've been doing is working with the South Australian Government, engaging directly with creditors, and the Prime Minister has indicated, as well as the Prime Minister's department, dealing directly with banks to get the best understanding of this issue as we can, to deal with the issues that can keep this business going forward on business terms and that's the best thing that can occur in this situation that this business works, and that this business has the room to keep working, and we've brought forward major projects and steel orders that can actually be the best thing we can do to ensure there's a business to work.

SPEERS:

Treasurer Scott Morrison, I appreciate your time this afternoon. Thank you.

TREASURER:

Thanks a lot David, good to be with you.