Australians were expecting Batman but they got the Joker - AM Agenda





SUBJECT/S: Recall of Parliament; ABCC; ASIC; Opinion polls

KIERAN GILBERT: On the program now Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Good to see you. In terms of substance of why we are back for this special sitting today, the Government wants the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation through or some would argue they don't want it through and they want to trigger for the double dissolution election. Either way, it's a special sitting. Does Labor really want to be fighting an election on this particular matter?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well Kieran, it's a strange set up isn't it, stopping Parliament and starting it again. Your viewers will of course know that the precedent for this goes back to King Charles recalling the English Parliament in 1640 to raise money to declare war on the Scots. Lord Wentworth then recommended it to King Charles that this would be a great idea, it turned out kind of badly for him. I suspect that Malcolm Turnbull could be going down the same path.

GILBERT: OK, that's an interesting comparison but the fact is that it's in the Constitution so he can use it. He is well within his rights to use it isn't it? It's there in the Constitution?

LEIGH: Well absolutely. But we've been arguing consistently and Tony Burke has been very forceful on this that Malcolm Turnbull should be recalling Parliament for a full week to get full Parliamentary scrutiny. Not simply scurrying away and attempting to play political games in the interests of the Liberal and National Parties.

GILBERT: But how is it scurrying away when he is saying we are going to go the people? And that's saying OK we'll leave it to the people to make their judgments on the comparative strengths on the plans that both parties have. There's a lot of detail that has to be said, credit to Labor for that thus far in terms of the electoral cycle from Labor. The Government we are awaiting the budget. But then the people can decide over two to three months that there is no shortage of period of scrutiny for that?

LEIGH: Absolutely, but straight away I think the Australian people want some questions answered by Malcolm Turnbull. They want to know why he is standing up for the banks over people who have been ripped off by financial scandals. They want to know why he wants to spend $160 million on a marriage equality plebiscite that half of his backbench says they will ignore. There are some serious questions and many of those will in fact come from Liberal backbenchers who are not too happy with this Prime Minister.

GILBERT: Let's pick up on one of the things you referred to there, the banks Royal Commission. The Treasurer says that the Government is looking at strengthening ASIC, that ASIC has standing powers stronger than that of a Royal Commission so what it is saying is essentially that its response will be tougher and more permanent than a royal commission and less expensive?

LEIGH: Kieran, ASIC is about enforcing the laws; a Royal Commission is about looking at whether we need to change the laws. Last week along with Bill Shorten, I met a number of victims of financial rip offs, one of them, Jenny, who had been ripped off by a mortgage broker told me this incredibly moving story about how her children are reluctant to ask her for $20 for a school excursion because they know how close Mum and Dad are to losing their home. There have been too many of these rip off scandals going back to Storm, Trio, Westpoint, Comminsure, and the bank bill swap rates scandal. We've finally said enough is enough, it's time to have a Royal Commission and have a systematic look at how these vertically integrated businesses are affecting the reputation of our banks. 

GILBERT: But if you have ASIC with greater teeth, and there is greater scope for law enforcement, doesn't then that lead to the Parliament deciding to change the necessary laws, isn't that what you're here for?

LEIGH: But Kieran, this Government has been pulling the teeth of ASIC. They've taken $120 million out of the corporate regulator. Moreover, the corporate regulator can't investigate itself, it can't hold public hearings and look at whether or not we can work together to make sure we have a strong banking sector.

GILBERT: Can you give us some clarity on what the terms of reference should be for that Royal Commission?

LEIGH: Well the terms of reference are ultimately a matter for the Government. Our call has always been that the Turnbull Government ought to hold a Royal Commission into the banks. We've said if they don't we will look at one if we're fortunate enough to win Government and we've talked about the broad parameters of that ranging across the financial services industry.

GILBERT: Let's look at the broader issue of where the Government is at here, and Labor as I mentioned have stolen the margin from the Government on a number of areas and doing quite well on the opinion polls. I know you don't comment on the polls but do you recognise that when the Government does deliver its May 3 budget that that's really when the judgements will be made and this election decided?

LEIGH: Kieran, the Australian people were expecting Batman and in fact they got the Joker out of this Prime Minister. They haven't gotten the long-term economic reform. Malcolm Turnbull talks a big game about economic leadership. But since 2013 living standards in Australia have fallen 4 per cent. We've got more people unemployed than when this Government came to office and we've got the deficit for this year sextupled; more than six times bigger than when the Government came to office. They talk about bringing down taxes but in fact the tax to GDP ratio is rising under this Government. All the numbers that should be going up are coming down and numbers that should be going down are coming up.

GILBERT: Do you feel that there is a sense of optimism within your Opposition at the moment given where you are in terms of the polls and where things were just a couple of months ago? Do you feel like there is a sense of optimism that Shorten could win?

LEIGH: Kieran, to be a Labor MP is to be an optimist. We are the side of politics that believes in long game reforms. If you look at the big structural changes in Australia - such as Medicare and universal superannuation - they are Labor changes. We are putting a range of important proposals on the table; we've been clear about how we'd raise the money to pay for those in a way that wouldn't hurt growth or equity.

GILBERT: OK Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer as always I appreciate it.

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.