Sky News AM Agenda Transcript


SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into financial services industry, citizenship legislation, Stuart Robert.




SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into financial services industry, citizenship legislation, Stuart Robert.

TOM CONNELL: Mark Dreyfus, thanks for being here today. If I could start on the inquiry that was obviously called last week. There was a recommendation for a financial systems inquiry push in 2009 when Labor were in power. That was rejected by Wayne Swan at the time. Even last year Labor voted against this Greens proposal and then a couple of days after Malcolm Turnbull gives a speech whacking the banks, you decide to stand up and announce it. Is that just coincidence, that timing?

MARK DREYFUS: We think the time’s come for a Royal Commission into financial institutions in Australia and into the financial system, and it’s not about us having rejected a Greens proposal in the Senate in 2015 for a Royal Commission. That’s not how you start a Royal Commission. The Senate does not commission a Royal Commission, the government does, the executive does, and that’s why we’ve called on the government to set up a Royal Commission. We need to have a system-wide investigation.  As the Leader of the Opposition said on Friday, announcing our policy, enough is enough. And enough has happened of instance after instance of corruption, of misconduct, of malpractice in financial institutions to show us that it’s time now for a Royal Commission.

CONNELL: Okay, when it comes to the plan, it was already costed by the PBO at $53 million or so. Presumably you had this ready to go in the top draw, did you, that this plan had been thought of for some time and you’ve been waiting for the biggest bang that you can, just after Malcolm Turnbull’s speech?

DREYFUS: Well it’s revealing, again, that Mr Turnbull is quite happy to talk about problems, quite happy to go to a banking industry dinner and tell the banking industry that they’re not doing enough, that there’s been misconduct in their industry and calling for higher standards, but he’s not prepared to back that up with action. Labor is. We would establish a Royal Commission in government. I repeat the call for the government to go down this path and, revealingly, some five Coalition MPs have joined Labor in this call, saying that a Royal Commission is the right thing to do. Only a Royal Commission can get us to a system-wide examination that are apparently systemic problems.

CONNELL: Okay, some of those MPs were more open to it than necessarily supporting, but there are a few Nationals speaking out. What about the fact that there are already of course existing regulatory bodies in this area, for example in 2014/15 Budget, $120 million was taken out of ASIC, in future years, in terms of their resources, so if Labor really wants to clamp down on this sort of activity, are you going to put all of that money back?

DREYFUS: That’s why we have a Royal Commission. It’s to look at the system. ASIC can investigate on a case by case basis, but to get a system-wide investigation, to examine whether we need to change the law, to examine whether more resources might be needed for ASIC, that’s the task for a Royal Commission, which has got the reach and would have the powers that ASIC does not have. It’s very important we think to strike now and say this is the time to have a Royal Commission, so as to restore confidence, to build confidence in the Australian financial services industry.

CONNELL: This is going to take a couple of years or so. Why not put some money straight back into ASIC and say the time has come now and the time has come to put more resources back into this regulatory body?

DREYFUS: This is something that along with all other areas of policy debate that we’ll proceed carefully. Obviously in government we would consult with ASIC, to determine whether they’ve got the resources in the meantime while the Royal Commission is taking place. Just as we would be consulting with ASIC, which would have a role to play, we’d be consulting with the financial services industry, as to what the terms of reference for this Royal Commission should be. This is something on which we should be proceeding carefully.

CONNELL: Okay, we’ll take that as an under consideration in terms of that funding. Can I move you on to another topic, the Citizenship Loss Board, this is one that will decide whether to strip citizens, of dual nationals, of their citizenship if they’ve engaged some kind of terror activity. The process that’s been outlined on this, it’s a board, it’s appointed by the government, it has been described as secret by some of the newspaper reports. Have you had briefings on this and are you comfortable with how it’s going to work?

DREYFUS: We have not had a briefing on exactly how this is going to work, but this is of course set up under the legislation that Labor supported last year after the government agreed to a number of amendments that we put forward, including a range of additional safeguards and reducing the reach of the bill. You might remember Tom that when the government first put forward this citizenship stripping idea, at some point they wanted to strip citizenship from sole nationals, from people who’ve only got Australian nationality, that didn’t happen. At another point they put forward a bill which had an extraordinary range of conduct that could have led to loss of citizenship, including from a vandalism offence. It’s under the bill as it ultimately went through, it is restricted to only very serious terrorism-type offences, we’re talking about people who are outside Australia, very many of them in Syria, who have committed the most serious terrorism-type offences, and of course under the legislation as it now stands, they will have a right to have any decision that is made by officials to be reviewed by a court, and we thought that was very important too.

CONNELL: In terms of, and I know you mentioned the legislation from last year, the way this Citizenship Loss Board has been described and how it’s operating, it’s been described as secret, are you going to seek some briefings? Do you have any concerns about accountability there, or are you happy enough, judging from the legislation, that this is going to be something that you find palatable?

DREYFUS: The Government provides regular briefings to the Opposition in relation to national security matters. We’ll be getting briefings in due course in relation to this board when it is set up, but it is under the legislation that we passed through the Parliament last year. It is important that it can’t of course be secret in its entirety. The decisions are going to have to be public and there will be a right of review, and that was one of the things that we fought for when the legislation was going through the Parliament last year.

CONNELL: Okay, if I can take you finally to reports today that Stuart Robert took his government phone to China on that private trip. I know that there’s been plenty said about that already. He’s no longer on the front bench, but he said he didn’t make any calls, texts or data when he was over there, so seems to be indicating that he did not compromise this government phone in any way.

DREYFUS: What’s extraordinary is that in breach of absolutely clear instructions, that are given to all Ministers, that they are not to take their government phones into China, Stuart Robert as Assistant Defence Minister has done just that. He’s breached the clearest possible instructions. It’s not to the point that he’s saying that he didn’t use it very much. There’s a reason why there is this instruction that phones are not to be taken into China. A real security breach has occurred here and I think it warrants further investigation.

CONNELL: We’ve run out of time, but Mark Dreyfus thanks for your time on AM Agenda this morning.

DREYFUS: Good to be with you.