ABC RN Drive (5)

30 November 2017




SUBJECT/S: Turnbull getting permission slip from banks for a Royal Commission; Sam Dastyari


PATRICIA KARVELAS: Jim Chalmers is the Shadow Minister for Finance. Welcome to RN Drive.




KARVELAS: Bill Shorten says this is a victory for Labor, but really it's the Nationals that have brought this on. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have this Royal Commission, would we?


CHALMERS: As you said, Patricia, this has been our policy for more than 600 days now. The Government has voted against our policy something like 23 times in the last 18 months or so. And even earlier this week Malcolm Turnbull was saying it was a terrible idea to have a Royal Commission. I think in that interview you just did with the Minister, it was very revealing because what Kelly O'Dwyer said was that they wanted to have a Royal Commission, not because of the impact on the victims of these rorts and rip-offs that we've seen in the banking system, but because of the impact on the banks themselves. That's why we've had this bizarre situation today where after two years of the public crying out for a Royal Commission into the banks and the Government under Malcolm Turnbull resisting those calls, all of a sudden the big banks write a permission slip for Malcolm Turnbull and he's out within the hour announcing a Royal Commission. It's just an absurd situation.


KARVELAS: But do you contest the idea that the banks need to be stable and need to be secure. I mean, that's sort of the bedrock of how our economy works, isn't it? You wouldn't dispute that?


CHALMERS: Of course we want a strong banking system, but that means having a banking system which is ethical and treats its customers appropriately as well. The point that I'm making is in all of the interviews that Kelly O'Dwyer and Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have done today, not once have they expressed concern for the actual victims of the rorts and rip-offs in the banking system. Instead, we've got the Prime Minister saying he's doing it for political reasons. We've got Kelly O'Dwyer saying she's doing it because, as always, they're siding with the banks. I just think that this is another example of a Government which always sides with the top end of town. We have been siding with the broader Australian population - the small businesses, the consumers, the people who have been hurt by these scandals, in saying we need to get to the bottom of these issues. You can tell when you listen to the Government talk about this Royal Commission that their heart is simply not in it. They've got a phony concern. They say that this Royal Commission is regrettable. Bill Shorten and Labor say that this Royal Commission is essential. 


KARVELAS: Why didn't Labor call a Royal Commission when you were in Government? 


CHALMERS: There are a whole range of matters that have come to light in the last few years. There have been issues in the insurance industry; there have been issues in terms of the rorting of the interbank interest rate. There have been all kinds of things and I think that the pressure has mounted. Almost two years ago we stood up and we said "enough is enough, we need a Royal Commission into the banks". We called on the Government to join with us. They spent almost two years saying that was a horrible idea, including up to something like 48 hours ago. Now they've come to the party, not for the right reasons. They've come to the party because Malcolm Turnbull's party room is horribly divided and because the banks wrote them a permission slip. That's the point we're making today.


KARVELAS: Ok, draft terms of reference have been released. Have you got across these? Will they be effective?


CHALMERS: I've had a look at those draft terms of reference. We're a bit disappointed, Patricia, that the victims groups and the consumer groups have not been consulted on those draft terms of reference. We know that the Government is in cahoots with the banks on them, but not with the actual people affected. So that's not a good start when it comes to properly consulting on those terms. We'll have a proper look at them, and via Chris Bowen and Katy Gallagher and Bill Shorten, we will have a view on those in time. But it's not a good start to ignore the people who have been affected by these scandals.


KARVELAS: I just want to move to another big issue - Bill Shorten says he doesn't trust Sam Dastyari's judgement. Why should he stay a Senator?


CHALMERS: I think Bill's taken pretty decisive action in sacking Sam from those Labor Party positions he had in the Senate. He wouldn't have taken those decisions lightly. Both Bill and Sam and other colleagues have pointed out the obvious, which is this is an issue that Sam has badly mishandled and badly misjudged. He's been punished for it.


KARVELAS: Why would he have delivered that statement at that press conference? On his own, this well-executed position that was completely at odds with Labor Party policy?


CHALMERS: You'd have to ask Sam about that. He's given an account of the situation twice in the Senate today and that's for Sam to explain. He has said repeatedly that he did the wrong thing, that he wouldn't have done it that way if he had his time over again. He has said that he mishandled it and misjudged it. Bill has made the point too, not just in his words but in his deeds in taking Sam out of some of those positions in the Senate. My personal view is that Sam is better than this mistake that he's made, but he has to learn from it and he has to rebuild credibility in the party and the broader community.


KARVELAS: Tell me how he's going to rebuild this credibility. What sort of time frame are you going to give him? 


CHALMERS: It's not for me to give him a timeframe. I think the obvious point is he has been demoted from his positions in the Senate. He's had to explain himself in the Senate. It's really up to him how he goes about that. I've known Sam a long time. I think he can rebuild credibility. It'll take a lot of time and a lot of effort. He has been his own worst critic on this and I think people should check out what he said in the Senate about all of this. But it's not for me to put time frames on what happens now.


KARVELAS: But it sounds to me like you're basically saying there's a pathway for him to rebuild his political career.


CHALMERS: I'm saying that's not for me to determine. I'm saying if he wants to do that, he's got to do a lot of work to achieve that. It's not for me to determine what happens to Sam in the future. It's up to Sam and you can ask him about that in time. But the point I'm making is that he has a job ahead of him. I personally think he's up to that, but time will tell.


KARVELAS: I would love ask him but he wouldn't come on the show. Jim Chalmers, thanks for joining us.


CHALMERS: Thanks Patricia.