Canberra Doorstop 25/11/19

November 25, 2019


SUBJECTS: The floundering economy; Westpac; China.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Since the Parliament last sat unemployment has risen, wages growth has slowed, the retail sector has been spluttering, the economy has been floundering, we found out that Westpac has breached the law 23 million times, yet Scott Morrison's highest priority is to pick on unions which represent nurses, cleaners and firies. I think that speaks volumes about the Government's priorities here.

When the economy is floundering and people are struggling, Scott Morrison spends all of his time dividing Australians to try and distract from his substantial failings on the economy. If only Scott Morrison spent as much time coming up with a plan to turn this economy around as he spends dividing people as a distraction from his failures on the economy. If only Scott Morrison spent as much time cracking down on bad behaviour in the banks as he spends picking on workers and their unions. If only Scott Morrison spent as much time focussed on growing the economy as he spends playing politics, the country would be much better off. Scott Morrison thinks that a union making three mistakes on their paperwork is a bigger threat to Australia than 23 million breaches of the law by one of the big four banks. That's why he resisted the Banking Royal Commission for two years. It's why he voted against the Banking Royal Commission 26 times. It's why he has been dragging his feet on implementing the recommendations of that Banking Royal Commission.

Scott Morrison's priorities are all wrong. He spends no time coming up with a plan for the economy and spends all of his time dividing Australians and trying to distract from the fact that since the Parliament last sat unemployment's gone up, wages growth has slowed, the retail sector is in real strife, the economy is floundering and a bank has been sprung with more bad behaviour that Scott Morrison has spent so much of his time over the last six years of this Government trying to prevent from coming to light.

JOURNALIST: Is that a fair comparison to make, though, the union busting Bill with the Westpac scandal? I guess it's not the Government's job to be firing bank execs?

CHALMERS: The Government's argument is that it's their job to be firing union leaders. That's the inconsistency that we're pointing out here. In the last Parliamentary sitting fortnight of the year they want to make this their primary focus. The Government wants to crack down on a union which might get its paperwork wrong three times at the same time as we've got one of the big four banks engaged in 23 million alleged breaches of the law. The Government will always prioritise picking on workers and their unions over cracking down on the big banks.

JOURNALIST: Westpac's frozen their execs' bonuses. Does the public want more than just a slap on the wrist?

CHALMERS: The steps that Westpac have taken so far have been completely and utterly inadequate. The public and the shareholders have a real hunger for accountability which hasn't been satisfied by the announcements the bank has made so far.

JOURNALIST: So what should the Government be doing here?

CHALMERS: The Government's got its priorities all wrong. As I said, when it comes to cracking down on the big banks they'd rather spend their time picking on workers and unions.

JOURNALIST: But what should they do?

CHALMERS: The Government should not have spent six months dragging their feet on implementing the Banking Royal Commission’s recommendations. The Government should not have spent two years resisting calls for the Banking Royal Commission. The Government shouldn't have voted against it 26 times. We need to ensure that the Banking Royal Commission recommendations are implemented as soon as possible. We need to make sure that there is accountability for Westpac and that the public's legitimate hunger for more accountability is satisfied.

JOURNALIST: How concerning are reports of attempted Chinese influence in our Parliament?

CHALMERS: These are extraordinary revelations which deserve the most thorough investigation. If they are confirmed they underline and underscore an emerging issue that we've been aware of for some time. We want to make sure that our agencies are adequately resourced and listened to. We want to make sure that the Opposition is fully briefed on any developments. We want to seek opportunities to work with the Government in a bipartisan way to make sure that we get this complex area of policy right.

JOURNALIST: Should a former Chinese spy be granted asylum in Australia?

CHALMERS: No doubt that's being worked through and considered as the relevant authorities and agencies go through what has been a pretty extraordinary development. I don't have full visibility on all of the ins-and-outs of that case. No doubt we'll be briefed on that in due course as well. The Government should listen to the agencies. They should take the time to properly investigate all of the claims which are being made and take the appropriate steps after that. Thanks very much.