3 November 2017
Transcript - #2017213, 2017

Interview with Leigh Sales, 7.30 ABC

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government’s take-action-now approach to the banks; Mandating Comprehensive Credit Reporting; citizenship

LEIGH SALES:

Scott Morrison, thanks for joining us.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Leigh.

SALES:

The National Australia Bank's shedding 6,000 jobs while it posts a $5 billion profit. What do you think of that?

TREASURER:

Well, it's something for the NAB to explain. I obviously feel for the people who will be affected by that over the next few years. The financial services sector - there's a lot of challenges in that sector, and their board are making decisions about what they want to do in the future. I've spoken to the chief executive about it. He's told me about the NAB Bridge that he announced today, about how people will be supported when they move from the bank. I mean, there are around 3,000 people who actually leave the NAB every year, so there's already quite a lot of change that's been occurring. But the financial services sector is a highly competitive sector. It's also very profitable. It's important that our banking sector is strong, but obviously for those directly affected, what I'm pleased about is that we've had record full-time jobs growth in the last 12 months, particularly in the services sector. So they'll be leaving and going into an economy where jobs are being created.

SALES:

When you look at this, though, $5 billion profit and yet 6,000 jobs being shed. Isn't this the sort of stuff that causes Australians, including MPs on your own side of politics, to push for a royal commission into the banking sector?

TREASURER:

I'm not quite sure what that point is. I mean, the reason why we're taking action on banks is to improve accountability. We've got the Banking Executive Accountability Regime, ensure that we can take action now on how disputes are handled with the new complaints authority, with binding outcomes, to ensure that there's greater competitiveness in the banking system and today, I've announced new rules on comprehensive credit reporting, which means if you've got a good credit record, then you're going to get a better deal - so more competitive. And all of this combines together to make sure our banking system is more fair. So we're taking action on all of those things now. I'm not quite sure how spending $150 million on a QC's complaints desk, otherwise known as what others are pushing for, would help resolve any of those issues. I know what the issues are - we're dealing with them.

SALES:

Well, with Barnaby Joyce out of the Parliament, Labor will undoubtedly be looking for an opportunity to push through its plan for a banking royal commission. You call it a QC's complaints desk. Look at the history of royal commissions in Australia. They're far from that.

TREASURER:

I'd call it a $150 million QC's complaints desk but my point is, we're already taking action on the issues that are necessary and that have been identified, I think, as the problem and the other one, of course, is increasing the resources and powers of ASIC to deal with malfeasance in that sector. So there's a comprehensive solution that has been put in place even now and the idea of trying to kick this down the road because the Labor Party doesn't have a policy, and now they just simply want to cause mayhem in the Parliament and undermine confidence in the banking system which underwrites people's jobs and millions of Australians' savings and retirement savings, in particular, I don't think that's a very constructive way forward. And at the end of the day, it's executives that create royal commissions, not parliaments and so, that's just a fact which I note the Opposition has conceded.

SALES:

On the citizenship brouhaha, why are the Labor Party and Coalition so scared of an independent audit to look at the citizenship of MPs? Surely the case of Stephen Parry shows there could be more MPs out there trying to slide under the radar.

TREASURER:

Well, look parliamentarians have lots of obligations. We have got our disclosure of interest, we've got a range of things we must comply with, and we should comply with those. The High Court now has made a ruling on something that, for 10 years I think was quite unclear...

SALES:

Why not have an audit to get public confidence there?

TREASURER:

Because we need to get the focus back on what needs to be done in this country. When I move around the country, no-one talks to me about my genealogy. They talk to me about, "What are you doing to help create jobs?"

SALES:

Speaking of which, can I just check where were your parents born?

TREASURER:

My parents were born in Australia but this is the point, though, Leigh. I think, fair enough, there was an issue here. People have come forward. Many MPs and senators have stood down, and some were upheld by the High Court. But Australians aren't running around trying to go on ancestry.com and check all this out. They're interested in having the parliamentarians do their job, which is about jobs, and it's about energy prices, cost of living, and ensuring our economy is dealing with the challenges of the future. So that's where they want our focus to be. Fair enough, there's been some issues in this space but if MPs have issues, they should disclose them and move on. As Treasurer, I want to focus on the economy.

SALES:

I just want to check a couple of quick other factual things with that. The ABC is reporting that Stephen Parry approached a Cabinet minister about his concerns back in mid-August, and he was told to keep quiet. Do you know anything about that?

TREASURER:

I have no idea what that's about.

SALES:

And you weren't the Cabinet minister asked for advice?

TREASURER:

No. I mean, I never had any discussion with Stephen about these things but, I mean, that's speculation and look, people will want to try and continue to kick up dust around this issue, but what Australians want us to focus on is not setting up some genealogy commission here to go and prise over foreign citizenship laws. They want the Parliament to focus on what matters to them.

SALES:

Well, on that point, if I could pick up on that - you pointed out all that list of things people would like the Government to focus on, but when you look at what's actually going on in government and what your focus is there, you have people breaking ranks with the leadership and calling for a citizenship audit, people on your own team.

TREASURER:

I think people can see through that, Leigh.

SALES:

You have Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott offering leadership advice to the Prime Minister, you have several MPs backing Labor's call for a royal commission into banking. Is it fair to say that the lack of cohesion and discipline looks like you've got a group here over which Malcolm Turnbull is losing control?

TREASURER:

No, I think there will be those who will make their case for reasons other than what I think what this is all really about and I think that's all fairly transparent but what Australians want me to focus on, as Treasurer, the Prime Minister to focus on as the leader of the country, is the things that affect their day-to-day lives. And I think we're seeing that up in New England...

SALES:

But your own team...

TREASURER:

In New England on the ground, what we're seeing is people cannot understand what all this fuss has been about with the High Court and where Barnaby's grandfather was born...

SALES:

But its own-goals on your own side.

TREASURER:

No, I don't think anyone can say that over the last ten years, they've been experts in citizenship law and the impact of Section 44.

SALES:

But I listed a number of...

TREASURER:

This thing has come out of the blue, Leigh. It's been dealt with. It's time to move on.

SALES:

I listed more issues than that. You had the Michaelia Cash matter last week. As I said Kevin Andrews, Tony Abbott keeping a running commentary on the leadership. You've got a discipline problem, don't you?

TREASURER:

And we've passed 178 pieces of legislation and 371,000 people got a job, and 316,000 of those were full-time, which was the best in 40 years. We've just had our 11th consecutive month of a positive trade balance, which is also the best in 40 years and those are the things that are making a difference to people on the ground and I'm going to keep doing them.

SALES:

But if things are going so hunky-dory, then why do you have this problem with discipline on your own team?

TREASURER:

Well, I don't accept that that's the case because as a team, we're focusing on getting the results that I've just mentioned - getting things happening through our Parliament, which people said couldn't be done and it's pretty common for those who commentate to, week after week, say, "This is the week for the Turnbull Government." At the end of the week, we're still getting stuff done, we turn back up to work on Monday and on Saturday and Sunday, by the way and keep getting it done and I'm interested in more jobs, I'm interested in a stronger and more accountable banking system, I'm delivering on that. We're delivering on ensuring the rule of law has been returned to the building and construction industry, which is very important here in Victoria, and we're just getting on with that responsibility. And parliamentarians should make sure their other responsibilities are acquitted appropriately.

SALES:

Scott Morrison, thanks for joining us.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Leigh.