3 October 2018




NADIA CLANCY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: I’m Nadia Clancy, I’m Labor’s candidate for Boothby and I want to thank Clare O’Neil and Penny Wong for coming today and listening to people who have been affected by the banks and who are banking victims. I want to thank them for coming and listening to people, and just being and showing us why we needed this Royal Commission into banks.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much for coming. I want to make a couple of comments about the round table we have just had and then I will throw to Clare and there are a number of stories of the day that I will also comment on after we have dealt with the Banking Royal Commission.

Thanks for the introduction Nadia and thank you for organising this. Thank you Clare for coming to South Australia – it was sunnier yesterday.

I just want to make a few comments about this. What do we know about the Banking Royal Commission? The most important thing we know is that Scott Morrison voted against it 26 times. And listening today to the stories of South Australians, about the way they have been treated, unfairly treated, comes on top of listening over the last months, as we all have, to the victims of, frankly, misconduct, poor behaviour by banks, by banking practices. There is a real human cost to this and we heard that today. One of the things I said in there, and it is true, when I speak to South Australians and Australians about this issue, when people come and talk to us about this, Australians understand that banks are a business, they just want to be treated decently and they want to be treated fairly, and they haven’t been and that is what we were reminded of today.

So I’ll throw now to Clare to make a couple of comments and I will come back on a few other stories of the day.

CLARE O’NEIL, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES: Well thank you so much Penny and thank you Nadia for hosting us today and it’s wonderful to be here in South Australia

Scott Morrison never wanted a Banking Royal Commission. He delayed it for almost two years. He voted against it 26 times and when he was dragged kicking and screaming into instituting it, he didn’t give it enough time to do the job properly.

Now one of the consequences of this is that we have heard from hardly any bank victims in the Royal Commission process. More than 9,000 people made submissions to the Royal Commission process; just 27 have had the opportunity to share their stories in public.

One of the other issues is that the Royal Commission has not had the opportunity to travel very much. It’s never been to South Australia and it probably won’t get that opportunity in the remaining four months of this process. Well Labor just doesn’t think that is good enough. We believe the Royal Commission needs to be extended. It needs to be extended so it can travel to places like South Australia so that more victims can have the time to contribute to this important conversation about how we can make banking fair and it needs to be extended so the Commissioner has the time to put down firm proposals so we can assess whether they are going to do the job for us.

Now we had a wonderful conversation today with a group of bank victims, many of whom made submissions to the Royal Commission, but didn’t have the opportunity to share their stories. The question for Scott Morrison is, is he going to allow the people who have been victims of horrible misconduct to have their say as part of this process in the Royal Commission. Because Labor believes they are entitled to that say, that they have a right to be a part of this conversation.

Now I will speak a little bit about some of the things that have come out of the conversation today. We talked with probably a dozen South Australians about some of the things that have happened to them at the hands of the big banks. And the stories we heard were nothing short of gut-wrenching. People who have been farming in their families for generations, for decades, who have lost their farms. People who built businesses, who put their blood, sweat and tears into providing employment for others, only to have the rug swept out from under their feet by the big banks.

One of the core themes that came out of the discussion today is just a total lack of empathy shown to ordinary Australians on the part of the big banks. That is not good enough and I can tell you that Labor is in this to try to fix this problem.

WONG: Just two things I want to start with, and then there might be some questions. Firstly on the GST, we’ve seen Mr Morrison trumpeting his legislation to fix a flaw on Western Australia’s GST share. Can I just say this? Where is the guarantee for South Australia? We were given a guarantee that our GST share wouldn’t be reduced, so was Tasmania, so were the territories. Well the legislation that Mr Morrison is bringing forward doesn’t have that guarantee and it should. Where is it?

I also want to make a comment about the ongoing tragedy we have seen in Indonesia with the tsunami disaster in Sulawesi. We have extended publicly our condolences and our solidarity with the Indonesian people at this time. It is a good thing the Government has made a contribution. It is a good thing that Marise Payne has said there will be more to come.

I again reiterate bipartisan support for support, reconstruction and assistance to the people of Sulawesi.

JOURNALIST: On the situation in the South China Sea, we understand that US and Chinese warships have come within about 40 metres of collision. Is that sort of brinkmanship dangerous and what do you understand is the situation there?

WONG: I have seen those reports and whilst I disagree with Christopher Pyne on a great many things, such as school funding and the Banking Royal Commission, I will say he is right to say “we don’t want to see the escalation of tension in the South China Sea”. And like the Government, we support the application and the observance of the law of the sea, the international law of the sea.

Now obviously there are a number of details about this incident which have been made public. I’m not in a position to assess those, but as a matter of principle, we don’t want to see escalation, we don’t want to see tension in the South China Sea, we certainly don’t want to see risky behaviour, and like the Government, we support the continued observance of the international law of the sea.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that this is a sign of an escalation of the lengths that they’re willing to go to in the South China Sea?

WONG: I think any escalation of tension is concerning and we reiterate what I’ve said previously. We don’t want to see unilateral action, risky action which seeks to, or has the effect of, escalating tension in the South China Sea over disputed borders.

JOURNALIST: Just on the roundtable today, you heard from a dozen victims, how many more do you think there could be in South Australia?

WONG: Clare might want to add to this. One of the disappointing things about the Banking Royal Commission is that it doesn’t appear that these are isolated incidents. What appears is that this is an ongoing pattern of behaviour from the banks, which is why the Royal Commission has been so important. And if it’s an ongoing pattern of behaviour, then unfortunately you see more ordinary Australians affected.

O’NEIL: We know that more than 9,000 people made submissions to the Royal Commission, I think many of them hoping that they would get the chance to tell their stories in public. We would expect there’d be definitely more than 1,000 people in Adelaide and South Australia who might have a story. When we host bank victim roundtables like that which we’ve had today, what we find is that just about everyone you speak to has a story of some kind. Whether it’s at the smaller end of things, perhaps paying fees and being able to get those fees waived when they really weren’t for any type of service, all the way to the other end where people have lost homes, lost farms and lost businesses.

What we believe is really important is that people around Australia get to have their say in the Banking Royal Commission because this is an industry that affects directly or indirectly every person who lives in the state of South Australia, and yet under Scott Morrison’s rule, the Banking Royal Commission’s been set up to deny those people a voice.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned there were about 9,000 submissions. Would you be wanting to try and hear from everyone?

O’NEIL: Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to speak to everyone who’s made a submission to the Royal Commission, but we are travelling around the country and trying to provide an opportunity for people to either give us some comments in writing or to meet with a Labor Member of Parliament or with me in person.

This is not a replacement for a Royal Commission process and that’s why we are continuing this push to ask Scott Morrison “will he as Prime Minister allow the thousands of people around this country who are entitled to have a voice in this conversation to be able to tell their story?” He never wanted the Royal Commission to happen, he didn’t give them enough time to do that. We’re asking him to fix his error.

JOURNALIST: And what will happen from here for today’s victims and also what do you do with what you’ve heard?

O’NEIL: The victim stories are going to be really important for Labor. Scott Morrison may not be interested in what bank victims have to say but we certainly are. They’re going to inform the way that we deal with the Royal Commission and certainly in our calls and pushes for an extension of time to be able to allow them to have their say. But also we are very hopeful that a future Shorten Labor Government will be given the opportunity to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission because I truly believe that there’s only one political party that can be trusted when it comes to cracking down on the banks and that will be Labor.

Now if a future Shorten Labor Government is elected, the stories of these people will form part of the information that we need to properly implement these recommendations. When we have these discussions with bank victims, it’s really interesting because they actually don’t necessarily want to try to wind back the clock and fix the situation they’ve been in. They understand that we can’t go back in time and put them exactly where they were before this horrible thing happened to them. What they care about is preventing this conduct from happening again. We talked today about the fact that what Labor wants is for us to be in a place in five years’ time where we don’t need to have bank victim roundtables because the banks treat people decently and fairly and according to the law.

JOURNALIST: Just briefly again on the South China Sea, do you have any understanding on who the aggressor was in that situation?

WONG: I’m not going to start to get into commentary about this. We’re not in government, we obviously are reliant on what has been said publicly. But I think what is important here is the principle and I’ve enunciated that. We shouldn’t have a unilateral escalation of tension. We want to see disputes resolved peacefully. We don’t want increased risk on the seas and we certainly continue to advocate strongly for the observation of the International Law of the Sea.

JOURNALIST: Is it situations like this that’s informing Australia’s decisions around what waters we enter and us staying out of certain areas?

WONG: Those are matters the government of the day has to consider in light of advice. Again, the principle is important. The law of the sea matters. The Convention on the Law of the Sea is something Australia – on both sides of politics – support strongly and that will continue to guide our behaviour.

JOURNALIST: And I think you touched on this with Indonesia but would you support us increasing the amount of money that we’re sending there?

WONG: We’ve offered bipartisan support for whatever assistance is necessary and we welcome Marise’s announcement today, but we would welcome further assistance being provided as required.

Thank you.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.