SUBJECTS: Banking Royal Commission.

CRAIG ZONCA, PRESENTER: In politics it is Banking Royal Commission that is really dominating headlines and some of the evidence that has been heard has just been so very disturbing. And Tanya Plibersek is the Acting Federal Opposition Leader, the Federal Member for the seat of Sydney, but she's in Brisbane today. Tanya Plibersek, good morning to you.


ZONCA: Have you been as shocked by some of the evidence you've heard out of the Royal Commission?

PLIBERSEK: Look I have been shocked. I did think obviously the Royal Commission was necessary, that there would be bad practices uncovered, but I think the scale of the bad practices and the fact that some of the banking and insurance organisations had taken so little trouble to fix up their mistakes where there have been mistakes, to notify customers of poor practice to make amends for that poor practice that has been particularly shocking.

ZONCA: A couple of things just in the past 24 hours, including the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling for Australia's financial services regulators to stand down following some of these revelations, pardon me, would you support such calls?

PLIBERSEK: Well, he's the Prime Minister who cut $120 million from the financial regulator, ASIC, so I think it's a bit rich to massively cut the funding of an organisation and then blame it for not being able to keep up the work that it was doing. I don't know about calling for particular regulators to stand down but it does show that regulators need redouble their efforts and certainly to be accountable for their efforts as well.

Just again, but rich for a government that cuts resources to an organisation to then complain it can't do its job.

ZONCA: But it shows the regulatory environment has not been working -

PLIBERSEK: No, absolutely, I completely agree with that, and that takes skilled investigators and the time and resources to undertake those investigations.

ZONCA: So, you say, don't blame the people who are leading these regulators, blame the fact they don't have the resources -

PLIBERSEK: Hold them to account by all means, I'm not saying there's no responsibility there to do a better job, but there is also additional responsibility for governments to properly resource the work that they're doing.

REBECCA LEVINGTON, PRESENTER: Are you anticipating more banking (inaudible) will be stepping down as a result of this Royal Commission?

PLIBERSEK: I would expect that will be necessary over time. I don't really have a particular view about which people or which organisations but I think some of the behaviour is on such a scale and so deliberate, not at all accidental, but deliberately charging very inflated fees for very poor services for example, I think yes, people need to be held accountable for that - absolutely. And I think it is important for banks and financial institutions to start to think about where customers have been clearly disadvantaged by poor advice or poor products sold to them, and how they'll make amends, how they'll make reparations to those customers.

People's lives have been ruined. One of the reasons we were so supportive of a Banking Royal Commission is because people's lives have been ruined, they've lost their homes, they've lost their super, they've gone to an insurer at a time when they expected to get the support that they'd been paying insurance for years of even decades, and they've been let down by those institutions causing catastrophic financial and psychological and emotional problems for these people who've been let down. Someone needs to be held to accountable for that. Bill Shorten has written to the Prime Minister and asked him to take up this issue, of the banks or financial institutions accountability to their clients that have been played down in this way. I think that's an important first step. And then, making sure of course that this sort of thing doesn't happen again. There's a real benefit to taking the approach that a royal commission gives you, the thoroughness, the opportunity of really investigating what's gone on for years, gives you the opportunity of creating a system that doesn't allow it to happen again.

ZONCA: When you talk about making amends for the decisions that have been made and the practices of some of the banks, some of which we've heard so far, some more of which may come out as the commission continues, are you saying that the banks have to do that or is that something that taxpayers would bare the cost of? 

PLIBERSEK: The banks should do it. Why should taxpayers pay for it? These banks have made massive profits out of, in some cases quite questionable behaviour over many years -  of course they should pay for it. That's why I was actually surprised to hear Pauline Hanson talking the other day about how the banks shouldn't get the $13 billion of tax cuts that are coming to them that should go to their customers that have been badly treated. That affectively is again, a taxpayer subsidy for the banks' bad behaviour. So instead of spending that money on hospitals, schools, infrastructure, creating jobs, we'd be compensating the clients of financial institutions that, you know, banks have made enormous amount of money out of. I don't think that's a sensible proposition at all.

LEVINGTON: Tanya Plibersek is the Acting Federal Opposition Leader and member for the seat of Sydney. She is in Brisbane today - later on she will be visiting Humpybong State School, she will tell you why in just a moment. Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has called for the partners of federal politicians to be allowed to work together. I just want to play what Barnaby Joyce has said: 


Senior Coalition colleagues have rejected that idea. What do you think, Tanya Plibersek? 

PLIBERSEK: I’d love my husband to take instruction from me. 

No, I actually think it's a real problem. I think it is uncomfortable for other staff in the office. If the partner is not doing there job properly, who do the other staff complain to? They can't complain to the boss. 

I think it's actually a real problem with the conflict of interest. Now, if someone's partner gets a job somewhere else in the political environment, you know, maybe the conflict of interest is manageable but I think, by and large, it would not be a good idea.

ZONCA: So you support the standards that Malcolm Turnbull is talking about at the end of last year?

PLIBERSEK: I support common sense. Like honestly, does common sense not tell you that it is a bad idea to hire your husband or wife? Or your kids or you brother or whatever the relationship is. Common sense should tell you that you've got potential conflict of interest, that there will be a  perception of favouritism in the office, that your other staff are likely to feel comfortable, that if your relative doesn't do a good job, then you've got a real problem when you sack them. I think it is full of problems, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.

LEVINGTON: You arrived in Brisbane yesterday to talk to TAFE Queensland. I don't know if you noticed the price of unleaded fuel while you're driving around, about $1.50-$1.54 cents a litre. And yesterday, the Palaszczuk Government has said that 39 cents of every litre in petrol is a federal tax and it was the Federal Government the re-index the fuel excise in 2014, locking in the fuel tax to continually increase. If federal Labor won government at the next election, would you look at changing that? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, fuel prices are obviously influenced by the taxes people pay but they are also very substantially influenced by what's happening with the Australian dollar. So that's not something that you can fix overnight. We tried - 

LEVINGTON: It is not a problem that's trying to be addressed overnight though, it is a problem that has consistently seemingly dumbfounded everyone from the ACCC, to the Premier, to the Prime Minister for years. Do we get to a point where we just go, 'Yep, fuel's really expensive. It's just one of those things because it does seem like anything actually changes it'. 

PLIBERSEK:  I'm sorry. I don't have a fast answer for you. We have to look when we are in government at what was happening with fuel prices but there are obviously big changes over time that are affecting the value of the dollar, the availability of oil and petroleum products depending on what's happening. 

There's a whole range of things that we would have to look at when we're in government and also making sure we're investing more in public transport so people can make a choice to leave the car at home where they can. That's why we're supporting projects like cross-river rail here in Brisbane and there's this big unknown about what the take up is going to be of electric vehicles, over coming years as well. So you'd have to look at all those things together, one of the things that we had committed to is making sure that we have really good fuel efficiency standards in Australia because we really have lagged the world in making sure that we have good solid fuel efficiency standards, that's something where we can make a significant contribution to.

ZONCA: And previously we've had a love affair with big V8 Falcons and Commodores and those sorts of things as well but Tanya Plibersek on fuel prices there's been a lot of talk about this concept of real-time price monitoring which does occur in NSW where you're from. Do you think that would make a difference in Queensland where we don't have it?  

PLIBERSEK: I think being able to shop around always makes a difference and the more information people have the better it is for them.

ZONCA: Would you suggest to the Queensland Labor Government that they adopt it?

PLIBERSEK: That's a matter for them, I think if you've got a good example in a state next door that gives people more information about how they shop around that's certainly worth looking at but it's really a matter for the Queensland Government whether they'd want to do that.

LEVINGTON: Can I just pick up on something that rolled off your tongue in your previous answer to that, when you said 'when we're in government'. 

PLIBERSEK: Fingers crossed.

LEVINGTON: Are you confident because Bill Shorten was here last week, waving the Labor chequebook around, I mean potentially an election is a year away.

PLIBERSEK: I really hope we're successful at the time of the next election, it might not be the next election, it might be the election down the track, the one after - I don't know but we are really working very hard to be disciplined, to be united, to have a really good set of policies to offer people at the next election. We think Malcolm Turnbull has got the wrong priorities, we don't think a $65 billion big business tax cut, $13 billion of which goes to the big banks, is as important as properly funding our schools, properly funding TAFE, universities, our hospitals, you see what's happening to waiting lists in hospitals, properly funding infrastructure. I was talking about cross-river rail but we've announced projects in Townsville, Gladstone and Rockhampton and so on that really contribute to local jobs and the efficiency of local economies. That's what we think is important, we hope that the Australian people agree with us.

ZONCA: But they didn't at the last election, the majority - 

PLIBERSEK: No they sure didn't.

ZONCA: - went for a Coalition Government and there is a slim majority in the house but none the less it's a majority to the Coalition side of politics and I know Malcolm Turnbull was under a lot of pressure around 30 Newspolls that the Coalition have lost but when you look at the Newspoll results as well and there's an article in the Australian today saying, Bill can't get no satisfaction and time is not on his side. And this is looking at preferred Prime Minister, Bill Shorten has trailed Malcolm Turnbull for a very long time, will he be leading Labor to the next election?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull set the 30 Newspoll benchmark for himself when he rolled Tony Abbott he has now lost 31 Newspolls. So on his own benchmark that he set as the reason for rolling Tony Abbot he has gone beyond that 30 Newspoll target. 

Barnaby Joyce has put him on notice for Christmas, he's said if the Government's fortunes don't improve before Christmas that he won't be leading the Liberal Party after Christmas and this is really a make or break budget for the Government and if what we think is going to happen in the Budget which is the big business tax cuts and no reinvestment in health and education and the things that really make a difference to people’s lives then, I think his time is limited. 

ZONCA: But at what time do you look at Bill Shorten's number because he, on the list of consecutive polls where he has trailed on better Prime Minister numbers, he leads anyone else in the Labor Party. He's lost that on 51 occasions.

PLIBERSEK: But you know, we've never said that the only way we've made decisions is by looking at Newspoll - that's Malcolm Turnbull's test for himself. And if you're only looking at Newspoll, I'd rather be us than them. They actually had 30 losing polls under Tony Abbott, now they've had 31 losing polls under Malcolm Turnbull. 

ZONCA: Although the gap is tightening.

PLIBERSEK: Well, like I say it's not by any means the way we make our decisions.

LEVINGTON: We're 30 seconds away from the latest ABC news. Tanya Plibersek why are you going to Humpybong State school after this interview?

PLIBERSEK: I really want to talk to parents and educators about the fact that Malcolm Turnbull is cutting $17 billion dollars from our schools over the next ten years and to make that real, when I visit schools I can tell them: Hympybong will lose $660,000 over the next two years alone, 2018 2019. And I know there are parents right across Queensland today who are planning the next sausage sizzle, they're planning the next cake stall, they're trying to work our how they raise money at the school fete. 

Every school is losing money on this sort of scale over the next two years alone. The Government's got wrong priorities, they should invest better in our schools. 

LEVINGTON: We'll talk to the Government about that next time we talk to them but really appreciate you taking the time to drop in this morning thanks so much.

PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure to talk to you both.