A strong, stable and scandal-free banking sector - Transcript, AM Agenda





SUBJECTS: Queensland election; Labor’s calls for a Banking Royal Commission; Marriage equality. 

KIERAN GILBERT: You've seen the result out of Queensland it looks like Palaszczuk has been reelected but with a lower Labor vote. Do you accept that this is a message to Labor as much as anything as well? With the Greens recording quite a strong result in Queensland?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, we'll wait and see how the Greens do. But it's pretty clear that the Greens aren't taking any seats off Labor. It's possible that the Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson may well lose his seat to the Greens though I'm still hoping our fabulous Ali King will come through for Labor there. But the result is terrific. I look at Redlands where Kim Richards looks to have picked up a seat there. And a shout-out to my uncle Keith who was working Coochiemudlo booth for Kim. It's a strong result right across Queensland - 

GILBERT: But your primary vote is down again, is that not a worry?

LEIGH: Look at the change in the primary vote for the LNP and then look at the change for Labor. This is fundamentally a recognition that Annastasia Palaszczuk's approach of investing in health and education in making those long term decisions for Queensland is paying off. It's a clear rejection in Brisbane of the decision of LNP to get in bed with One Nation.

GILBERT: Do you think there is a broader trend, though? What's your view about the argument that the two party set-up in our country is on the wane because it certainly looks like that?

LEIGH: Absolutely. I've written about the decline in the major party vote over the course of the last couple of decades. To the extent that that's driven by concerns around economic inequality, Labor needs to focus on a fairer tax system, investing in schools, not giving a big tax cut to the banks but making sure that they face an appropriate Royal Commission. So the decision that Bill Shorten's Federal Labor is making and the decisions that Annastasia Palaszczuk is making at a state level are the right way of tackling these populist concerns.

GILBERT: In relation to the bank inquiry, it looks like you could well get your way with the Coalition splitting on  that and the Nationals - at least some of them - supporting a commission of inquiry. If that were to be the case, would that expedite compensation or delay it as the Treasurer would argue?

LEIGH: I think that any process that the Treasurer is setting up could run in parallel. But as Bill Shorten has noted these are fundamentally smokescreen operations, designed to distract from the Royal Commission that Australians want.

GILBERT: Do they really want that though? Is that something in terms of the cost and the lawyers picnic which is what the government would argue, is that something that you'll find is popular?

LEIGH: We've had a range of Royal Commissions under this Government. We need to make sure that we have a strong, stable and scandal-free banking sector and making sure that we are looking very carefully at the way the banking sector has changed around the world.

GILBERT: Is there a risk though as an economist that you go too far in terms of targeting the banks? The government has already got its executive accountability  standards and various other measures of compensation under way, greater involvement of the regulators. If you go too far here, are you at risk of undermining one of the pillars of our economy as John Howard put it certainly, that helped Australia get through the GFC relatively unscathed?

LEIGH: Kieran there's strong economics behind a Royal Commission into the banks. Our banks go overseas collectively each year and borrow something in the order of half a trillion dollars. They get that at extremely low rates as a result of the international money markets regarding our banks as being strong. But if you have this series of scandals chipping away at the public support for Australian banks, then that could impact overseas funding costs and could affect our banks’ ability to deliver services to Australian customers. We also need to think about the extent to which vertical integration is appropriate or whether regulations need to be updated to take that into account.

GILBERT: Are you looking for a Royal Commission to do that?

LEIGH: It's a root and branch approach which allows you to look at these sort of issues. If you look at the changes in Citigroup for example. Citigroup is a very different bank now then it was before the Global Financial Crisis. Less vertically integrated and I think doing a better job of serving their customers.

GILBERT: And finally on the same-sex marriage issue, the Government argue that they will get this done and they will get it done through the Senate this week and the House next week. Are you comfortable with where this debate is at within the Coalition as you look from afar?

LEIGH: There are certainly moves within elements of the Coalition to try and say that at the same time that we extend equality in one area we should wind it back in another. I don't think that's what Australians voted for, Australians don't want to go back to a time in which it's appropriate to discriminate against people based on their sexuality in a way in which it hasn't been up until now.

GILBERT: Do you feel like you've got the support for that view within the Coalition? Certainly that is the view of the Education Minister.

LEIGH: Well, I was listening to Warren Entsch this morning effectively telling some of his Coalition colleagues if they want to wind back discrimination laws they ought to step down from the frontbench so they can make that argument. He's worried - as are many Australians - that Malcolm Turnbull’s frontbench is consumed with fighting itself rather than for the interests of all Australians.

GILBERT: Mr Leigh, appreciate your time as always.

LEIGH: Thanks, Kieran.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.