Labor to hold its own ‘hearings’ for bank victims
Labor will flush out more victims of the banks and other financial institutions by holding a series of roundtables in cities and towns that have not been visited by the royal commission.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has announced that shadow minister for financial services Clare O’Neil will lead these meetings. He said they would give victims the “opportunity to share their stories and consider options for reform to ensure that the shocking misconduct exposed by the royal commission is stamped out.”
The opposition argues the commission should be given extra time. The government says this is up to Commissioner Kenneth Hayne – who has not up to now indicated he wants his inquiry – due to make its final report early next year – stretched out.
Shorten pointed out that so far the commission had only heard from 27 customers despite more than 9,300 customers making written submissions. Moreover, the hearings had been only in three capital cities (Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin), meaning “regional and rural customers have not had a sufficient chance to have their say”.
“Misconduct in the financial services sector is a national issue – and Australians across the country deserve their chance to be heard. Unlike the Liberals, Labor will listen to victims,” Shorten said.
“Labor now wants victims to have a seat at the table when the royal commission considers what reforms are required to clean up this sector. Scott Morrison doesn’t want to give bank victims a voice. He always has been, and always will be on the side of the big banks”.
O’Neil is set to start the roundtables this week with Adelaide on Wednesday the first location, followed by Geelong on Friday. Local Labor MPs and senators will be used to speak to victims in areas O’Neil can’t get to. Labor may put in a submission to the commission from its consultations. Submissions close late this month.
On another front, the government on Monday announced it will legislate its new plan for dividing the GST revenue between the states and territories.
In July it unveiled a deal to give Western Australia a bigger share – with more funds being provided all round to smooth out the politics of improving WA’s position. It initially flagged this could be put in place by an agreement with the states and territories.
But despite the additional money for all jurisdictions, a fresh argument erupted.
Tasmania said it wanted extra time to work on the new arrangement. In the wake of the prime ministerial change, a leak revealed there had been a slanging match between Scott Morrison when he was treasurer and the Tasmanian treasurer.
The move to legislation is another example of Morrison acting to clear away irritants where he can. This is especially important on the GST deal, given the Liberals have several seats at risk in WA. Morrison is campaigning there in the early days of this week.
In a statement, Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: “Unfortunately it became clear some states intend to grandstand and play politics on this issue, including in the lead up to this week’s scheduled meeting of the Council on Federal Financial Relations.
“We will now introduce legislation that locks these reforms into place, providing the certainty needed for the new GST distribution system. It prevents the system becoming a political football.
“The government is not going to get into running multiple GST arrangements,” Morrison and Frydenberg said. “The new system is fairer and because of the $9 billion over the next ten years in additional contributions by the federal government, all states and territories benefit.”
Morrison told reporters in Perth the legislation would cover the “whole package” he had earlier announced, including “the floor, the allocation and the change to the formula, the transition period and how the transition period is broken up over those six years.”
He said he was pleased to hear Bill Shorten “says he’s on a unity ticket with this […] I hope it’s true.”
Asked what had changed since he said in July that legislation might not be needed, Morrison said: “Well back then, the Labor Party were all over the place on this issue. … I didn’t want to get us into a situation where this whole process could have been disrupted by people playing political games.
“But given the Labor Party says they’re going to support our plan, well, that means that we can go forward with legislation and we can lock it in”.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the decision to legislate was “a big back down for Scott Morrison but a big win for Western Australia and the nation”.
“Bill Shorten has consistently argued for the deal to be legislated,” Bowen said.
But Labor was concerned the proposed legislation “fails to explicitly guarantee that no state will be worse off. As we review the legislation, we will be seeking answers about why this guarantee has been excluded”.
Banks leave small business ‘powerless’
SMH’s Emma Koehn
BUSINESS Small businesses are disappointed with the banking royal commission interim report, saying they haven’t been listened to and the inquiry should have been more ‘‘surgical’’ in reviewing cases.
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne indicated he hadn’t been shown compelling evidence to overhaul the legal frameworks governing small business loans in the report handed down on Friday.
The interim report largely dismissed the actions of the Commonwealth Bank in relation to 43 submissions from former business customers of Bankwest. The case studies alleged the bank had acted unfairly when it terminated or refused to renew these loans after CBA acquired Bankwest in 2008.
‘‘CBA did not always act towards the borrowers concerned as well as it should have acted. But the defaults revealed in the case studies fall very well short of showing that CBA engaged in deliberate conduct of the kind that those who continue to complain about its conduct allege,’’ Commissioner Hayne said in the report.
Small business ombudsman Kate Carnell said this assessment was one reason small businesses didn’t feel they had been truly listened to so far in the commission process.
‘‘I think he [Hayne] needs to look a little bit closer at that,’’ Ms Carnell said of the Bankwest loans.
Bankwest Victims Group spokesperson Rory O’Brien said the commission should have been ‘‘more surgical’’ in reviewing cases and should have heard from more case studies throughout.
Labor has called for the royal commission to be extended and is vowing to give more victims of bank misconduct a voice.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will on Tuesday announce financial services spokeswoman Clare O’Neil is planning series of roundtables around the country with those unable to appear before the royal commission.
‘‘So far, the royal commission has only had time to hear from 27 customers, despite over 9300 customers making written submissions,’’ Mr Shorten said.
‘‘All of the hearings of the commission have been in just three capital cities – regional and rural customers have not had a sufficient chance to have their say in this process.’’
Mr O’Brien said the small business community was disappointed there were no recommendations in the interim report around small business protections. ‘‘I think what they’ve done so far is just let the genie out of the bottle – Joe Average in the street is very disgusted by this stuff,’’ he said. ‘‘They can see what these banks are capable of and that they do terrible things. But he [Hayne] has stopped short. And he’s stopped short because he doesn’t have the money, or the time.’’
Ms Carnell said the report might not have recommended tighter regulation, but it did not improve access to finance for smaller operators either. ‘‘Because there are no recommendations, the interim report doesn’t really change much. It certainly won’t make it better.’’