30 November 2017
Transcript - #2017229, 2017

Interview with Leon Byner, 5AA

SUBJECTS: Royal Commission – Banks and Financial Services; Bill Shorten’s failure to expel Sam Dastyari from the Labor party; Sam Dastyari’s failure to resign from the Parliament

LEON BYNER:

Scott, good morning. Are we really saying then that if you had Barnaby and if you had your candidate for Bennelong in the Parliament – Mr Alexander – you wouldn’t be doing this?

TREASURER:

No, that’s not what we were saying, Leon, and that’s not the impression that was sought to be given. This is what’s happened – the politics of this issue had reached tipping point this week which meant there was being damage done to the banking system as a whole upon which pretty much, I would say, every Australian’s job depends. It had reached such an unhelpful and damaging and disruptive stage – caused by politics – that it was necessary to take what we’ve said is a regrettable but necessary action. That is based on shared advice in my discussions with the Governor of the Reserve Bank, the Chairman of the Prudential Regulatory Authority and indeed, as people would have seen earlier today, the four biggest banks have also said that this had reached a point where it was causing damage. So the Government had to effectively take this into control. The alternatives that were before the country would have been even far more damaging and so the Government has taken the action that we’ve had. So we’ve always done what’s necessary in the national economic interest on this issue. The Labor party and Bill Shorten in particular has been a fraud and a fake on this, he has played politics with this, he has damaged the economy over this and he should be held accountable for that, but the Government will get on with the job of government.

BYNER:

Okay, so, it was really the Nationals crossing the floor that pushed this to the nth, where you had to make a decision?

TREASURER:

Well, look, the arithmetic of politics is one thing but the rhetoric, political rhetoric in particular from the Labor party and the way that they have sought to disrupt and destroy and wreck. Bill Shorten has a capacity to cause harm to the Australian economy from opposition, imagine what he could do in Government. So it’s important that we take action now, regrettable but necessary action, to protect the interests of all Australians – depositors, shareholders, people whose jobs depend on the flow of finance through our economy. There’s been a lot of recklessness when it comes to this issue and the Government has put an end to that today by taking this strong position.

BYNER:

Alright, but it is the entire financial sector which includes insurance – is that the case?

TREASURER:

Yeah, and superannuation, industry funds, all of that – yes.

BYNER:

Alright because the reason the insurance part interests me is that we are aware as you know, we had a huge blackout September of last year and I can tell you there are quite a number of people who insured for losses who are still waiting for settlement – 14 months, 15 months later.

TREASURER:

I’m sure that the Commissioner will – once they’re appointed, we anticipate that this will get running in a few months’ time and it will run for 12 months – it will cost $75 million but one thing we need to be clear about, one of the reasons why the Government has been resistant on this is that we can’t create the impression that the Royal Commission will somehow deliver people compensation. That’s not what a Royal Commission does and I think one of the great cruelties that the Labor party and Bill Shorten has put on Australians who have felt like this for those precise reasons, Leon, is that somehow they think that they’re going to get a cheque or that their case will be settled and that’s not what a Royal Commission does. That’s why we haven’t raised those expectations like Bill Shorten has. That’s why we’ve been taking the action we’ve been taking. Whether it’s everything from increasing the accountability for bank executives, a new Complaints Authority which puts binding outcomes on the banks, responding to the Financial System Inquiry, dealing with credit card interest rates and surcharging to customer-owned banks, mutuals, cooperatives, ensuring that they can compete strongly with the big banks. That’s why we’ve been doing all of these things.

BYNER:

Do you think that any of those moves you just named will actually help people who claim that they’ve been gutted millions will get compensation?

TREASURER:

With live cases, certainly. That’s the point and into the future it will as well. There are many cases that are time barred and statute barred going back more than seven years. Now, a Royal Commission can’t change that either and so what has distressed me about the advocacy on a Royal Commission prior to this has been that it’s been very misleading. It’s held out hope to people who you shouldn’t seek to play with their emotions and they feel very strongly about this, there’s been big disruption to their lives and the last thing you do to people in that situation is give them false hope about something that isn’t going to happen. We’ll have this Royal Commission, it will have a clear terms of reference, it will ensure that it doesn’t turn into a political circus and it will be done in a sober and responsible way as you’d expect. But we’ve had to take this action because of the recklessness of the Labor party who are quite happy to play politics with the banking system that underpins everyone’s job and wage in this country.

BYNER:

While I’ve got you there as one of the chief executives of Government in this country, what do you feel about Sam Dastyari’s situation where Bill Shorten has basically said, “Look, you better remove all the parliamentary obligations you’ve got outside the fact that you’re still a senator.”?

TREASURER:

Sam Dastyari should resign from the Parliament – ‘last chance’ Sam has run out of chances. That’s it and if Bill Shorten does not see that he is removed from the Labor party immediately, he should resign from the Parliament. We’re having this bizarre episode at the moment about citizenship and senators from South Australia have had to stand down, I don’t think anyone was really suggesting that any of those South Australian senators had dual loyalties to another foreign power, they have been caught in a rather bizarre set of legal events. But Sam Dastyari isn’t accused of having dual citizenship, he’s only got one loyalty it seems and it’s not to Australia, and he should go, he should resign from the Senate, he should leave politics forever.

BYNER:

Do you predict that as a result of much of this discussion and warnings from ASIO and others and the Four Corners ABC program which have been very investigative and they’ve brought out some facts that kind of make you shake your head. Do you think we’re going to see a time very soon, Treasurer, where we don’t have political donations from businesspeople very close to state governments like the Chinese?

TREASURER:

The foreign donations issue is something the Government’s dealing with at the moment, but let me go back to Sam Dastyari. If Bill Shorten allows him to stay in the Parliament, or certainly in the Labor party, this is like Craig Thomson – remember how they all supported Craig Thomson, “Craig’s a top bloke, he never did anything wrong.” These guys stand up for these people. We’ve got a by-election in Bennelong at the moment up here in Sydney where Labor’s hand-picked candidate promoted Ian Macdonald to the Cabinet when she was premier and he’s now in prison, for goodness’ sake. That’s what these muppets do. Honestly, Sam Dastyari has to resign from the Parliament. There can be no other solution to this – “Oh, we’ll give him another chance.” Give us a break, stand up, Bill, stop being such a wuss.

BYNER:

Scott Morrison, thanks for joining us today.