THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2018
SUBJECT/S: Banking Royal Commission; ABC; Liberals’ cuts to schools; Lindsay pre-selection.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much for coming out this morning and welcome to my beautiful electorate, Surry Hills. We're very lucky that we've been just meeting - Clare O'Neil and I have been meeting with the Financial Rights Legal Centre, talking to them about the Banking Royal Commission. Of course, we're expecting an interim report tomorrow. It's been two and a half years since Bill Shorten and I last met with the Financial Rights Legal Centre, talking to them and to a number of their clients about the experiences they've had in the financial services industry. People who've lost their homes, lost their businesses, ended up with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that they couldn't repay.
And at that time, Bill Shorten and I called for a Banking Royal Commission. For 600 days Scott Morrison opposed that Banking Royal Commission. Every chance he had he said it was unnecessary. In fact he voted against it 26 times. Finally of course, Scott Morrison relented, the Government capitulated and a Banking Royal Commission was set up. And I think even people like the lawyers and counsellors that we spoke to today, have been surprised by the extent of the revelations, the extent of the poor behaviour uncovered by the Banking Royal Commission. Fees charged to dead customers, industrial scale lying to the regulators, insurance being sold inappropriately to vulnerable customers, the list goes on.
So we will wait with interest for the interim report tomorrow. Labor wants to thank the Commissioner, all of the counsel assisting and all of the staff of the Royal Commission for the work they've done to date. It has been an enormous undertaking, about 9000 submissions received. But when that interim report comes out tomorrow, if there is a case that the Commission needs to extend the time it has available to it, to speak to more people, to travel to more parts of Australia, then that option should be on the table. Despite the fact there have been 9,000 submissions, only about 27 Australian customers have had the chance to tell their stories in person. So if there is an argument for more time and more scope for the Royal Commission, the Government really ought to consider that. I'm going to ask Clare to say a few words about the Royal Commission interim report tomorrow and then we can go to other issues day. Thanks.
CLARE O'NEIL, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES: Thank you so much Tanya. My name's Claire O'Neil and I'm the Shadow Minister for Financial Services and it's just wonderful to be here in Tanya's beautiful electorate. The Royal Commission will make its interim report into Banking and Financial Services tomorrow. And I want Australians to know just how fundamentally outraged Labor is about some of the things that we've heard over the previous months. When the report comes out, I think we're going to hear a lot of feigned outrage from Scott Morrison and other Liberals about things that the banks have done.
And I want Australians to remember this; there has been no better friend of the big banks in Canberra than Scott Morrison. He voted against a Royal Commission 26 times and when we get an interim report tomorrow, I want Australians to remember that that is the report that Scott Morrison never wanted you to read. They want us to take seriously the idea that this Government is going to be the one to crack down on financial services and banking misconduct. Well, it is absolutely wrong. They did everything they could to prevent this Royal Commission from happening. And we cannot trust them to properly implement it's recommendations.
We saw very good evidence of this, this morning where we had the Assistant Treasurer, Stuart Robert give a shocking interview on Sky News where he inferred that the type of misconduct that we've seen through the Royal Commission is somehow inevitable. That government really can't do anything about it. Well that is wrong. Labor does not accept that this is a way that business is done in this country. These banks - the big banks, the institutions that have been examined in the Royal Commission, have ripped off thousands of Australians and we cannot allow this to happen again.
We want the Royal Commission to have an opportunity to extend the important work that it's been doing. The reason for that is because we don't believe that bank victims have been given the say that they need. The Government never wanted a Royal Commission to happen, and it only gave the Royal Commission just over a year to look into an enormously important industry. Just 27 victims have been able to tell their story through the Royal Commission. So we want to ask the Government to consider whether the Royal Commission might be given more time to hear from more Australians, and indeed, to travel around the country because currently the Royal Commission has only had the opportunity to visit three cities. Thanks.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you so much Clare. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the revelations in today's Daily Telegraph that Justin Milne also asked Michelle Guthrie to shoot Andrew Probyn because Malcolm Turnbull hates him?
PLIBERSEK: Well the revelations that we've heard about political interference in the ABC over the last 24 hours, are frankly quite shocking. I think it says a lot more about the Government than it says about the ABC to hear these sorts of revelations. People need to remember the ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party of Australia, it's our national broadcaster. Australians love their ABC. They are rightly very protective of its integrity and independence, and if these revelations are correct, it is difficult to see how the Chair of the board can remain the Chair.
JOURNALIST: Tanya, I understand that Bill Shorten phoned Justin Milne to say he had no problem with Michelle Guthrie's sacking. Was that the wrong thing to do?
PLIBERSEK: Well I don't know any details of that sort of conversation so I can't comment.
JOURNALIST: Sarah Hanson-Young has called for a clean out of the ABC Board, do heads need to roll over this issue?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it's very important to investigate the allegations that have been made. I mean, these are very serious allegations of political interference in our independent national broadcaster. What we would expect is a proper investigation, not a departmental cover up, but a Senate Inquiry as a first step to investigate whether these allegations are accurate.
JOURNALIST: Should Justine Milne stand down?
PLIBERSEK: Well Michelle Rowland, our Shadow Communication's spokesperson will be making further comments through the course of the day. But it is difficult to see if these revelations are correct, if the allegations are proved right, it is difficult to see how Justin Milne's position remains tenable.
JOURNALIST: Now Mitch Fifield has declined to say this morning whether Justin Milne should go, what do you make of that?
PLIBERSEK: Well you know, this is a government that has cut ABC funding most recently by almost $84 million. They've continued to - Mitch Fifield has written goodness knows how many letters to the ABC complaining about the coverage. We've now got revelations that the political interference is actually a lot more acute than that, with the Prime Minister himself, the previous Prime Minister calling for the sacking of journalists whose coverage he doesn't like. This is a very serious issue and each of these allegations needs to be properly investigated through a Senate Inquiry.
JOURNALIST: Now, Malcolm Turnbull says he raised concerns about accuracy with the ABC, but he insists he never called for anyone to be fired. Does that allay your concerns?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think if members of the public or anyone has concerns about accuracy of ABC reporting of course they have a right to raise those concerns, but what's being alleged here is a lot more serious than that. You've got the Chair of the Board saying that the Prime Minister and the Government have sought to influence political coverage through ABC news and current affairs by getting rid of journalists whose coverage they don't like. This is – this sort of thing just doesn't happen in Australia. The ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party, it is the independent national broadcaster that we have treasured and nurtured for generations. It is beyond the pale that any political party, any government should seek to influence or interfere with coverage that it doesn't like, because it doesn't like the tenor of the political coverage. And I mean this isn't one allegation, this is now a series of allegations about attempted political interference and sacking of particular journalists. I think Australians - we need to get to the bottom of it. Australians need to have confidence that these allegations are not true. If they are true then that's a very serious matter.
JOURNALIST: Now, Senator Fifield thinks he should hear back from his Department Secretary investigation in a matter of days not weeks, and he says he will have access to the documents such as the emails being sent. Why aren't you satisfied with that and why are you calling for a separate Senate Inquiry?
PLIBERSEK: Well because the proposition here is the Government has tried to politically interfere with the ABC. Why would we be satisfied with a political investigation of it?
JOURNALIST: If he doesn't stand down would you like to see him removed from his position then, Mr Milne?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think we'll have to consider issues throughout the course of the day and the coming weeks, because what we've seen just in the last 24 hours, is revelation after revelation. It is difficult to see how, if these accusations are true, it is difficult to see how the Chair of the Board is able to retain the confidence of Australians to do the job properly. I mean, the board's job is not to make life easy for the Australian government, for the Liberal Party of Australia. The board's job is to protect the integrity and the independence of the ABC.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, do you agree with the New South Wales Government's demand for $7 billion extra for State schools?
PLIBERSEK: Well I absolutely agree that every dollar cut from public schools in Australia should be restored. We've got a Prime Minister that says if your kids got to Catholic or independent schools, they are worth billions of dollars of extra funding. If your kids go to public school, not a dollar extra for your child. It is absolutely impossible to allow this to stand. Two-thirds of Australian children attend public schools. The majority of kids who grow up in rural and remote locations, the majority of Indigenous kids, the majority of poor kids, the majority of kids with a disability, go to public schools. Public schools teach the majority of Australian children and they teach a disproportionate number of children with additional learning needs. The fact that this government is prepared to admit that it cut billions of dollars from Catholic and independent schools and restore that funding, but not prepared to admit the billions that are being cut from public schools, and not prepared to restore that funding, is unconscionable. I am very pleased that Liberal and National Party Ministers, Education Ministers around Australia are joining with Labor Education Ministers around Australia and saying, no way, not good enough, you must properly fund public schools.
JOURNALIST: On another issue sorry, there's a report Emma Husar is reconsidering her decision to quit, do you think she'd be a good candidate for Lindsay at the next election?
PLIBERSEK: Well Emma has made clear that she's not recontesting. Okay, thanks everyone.