PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Government's failure to implement the Banking Royal Commission; witness J; Medevac; Angus Taylor; National Accounts.
STEPHEN JONES: It's the last sitting week of the year. When we turned up to Parliament this morning, we honestly thought that the Government was going to have legislation to be debated to implement the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission. The Government got 76 recommendations handed down to it for its action to deal with problems in the banking and the financial industry. As we go to Christmas, they've only implemented 6 of those 76 recommendations. They have failed to even make their own lowball of implementing the Banking Royal Commission recommendations. What this means is that, as we go into the Christmas period, dodgy operators within the finance sector will be able to continue to offer dodgy insurance products. As we go into the natural disaster season, that we're going to continue to have problems with claims management, all those unfair terms that exist within the insurance contracts will continue and all the other problems that the Banking Royal Commission uncovered will remain. They will continue a three-month holiday building dodgy operators within the banking and finance industry. We see with the banking and finance industry, as we see the economy and the national accounts figures, the Government just simply doesn't have a plan, doesn't have the initiative to do anything about the problems that ordinary Australians are facing. We've got a weak economy that has got weaker and we’ve got a Government that doesn’t have a plan. They’re evasive with the truth, when they’re put under pressure. They should be using this last week of Parliament, they should using this last day of Parliament, as an opportunity to deal with those big issues, the economic issues, the problems with the banking and finance industry. Why for example, did they use the last two days of Parliament to reintroduce a failed union-busting bill, instead of introducing laws to deal with all these problems in the banking and finance industry, which they've been sitting on since February this year. It’s simply not good enough.
JOURNALIST: More information has come forward about the Witness J case. Are the laws broken when it comes to national security and secrecy?
JONES: Labor believes that we should have open justice. We don't have the details of the trial. We don't have the details of the case and we think more needs to be known about that. As a general principle, Labor believes that the public is served and that justice is served when we have open trails and open justice.
JOURNALIST: How do we strike that balance between open justice and national security?
JONES: I think we need to get more details of the case. As a general principle justice is served well when trials are held in public. Yes, there may be instances where it endangers the lives of others have some of that information, if those trials are held in public. As a general principle, it's up to the Government to demonstrate why, in any particular instance, we should not have public justice.
JOURNALIST: Does the public have a right to know the deal that Jacqui Lambie struck with the Government in relation to the Medevac bill?
JONES: This is absolutely outrageous. The Government's done a secret deal. They've been put under pressure to demonstrate what's going on here and they won’t let us know. In the House of Representatives this morning, we're going to be asked to vote on a bill and we won't have the details of it. The Medevac bill, the deal that has been done with Senator Lambie, is supposed to go to national security issues. With all things that there should be transparency on, issues that are dealing with national security in a deal that has been done to trash legislation that was working well, legislation that was providing desperate people in need of medical care with the medical care that they needed. Senator Lambie has done a deal with the Government to trash that legislation. It's incumbent on the Government or Senator Lambie to come forward and say what that deal encompassed.
JOURNALIST: The Government says there's been no deal. Are we expected to believe that? Do you believe that?
JONES: Looks like a deal, smells like a deal, sounds like a deal, it must be a deal.
JOURNALIST: Just in terms of Angus Taylor, he’s now thrown one of his staffers under the bus. Is he shirking responsibility?
JONES: Mr Taylor's staff member is responsible to Mr Taylor. Mr Taylor himself is responsible to Parliament. He needs to come into Parliament and explain what has gone on here and explain why he has misled Parliament. An apology is needed and an explanation is needed. Mr Taylor should use this last day of Parliament to set the record straight.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything else he needs to do?
JONES: I think if there is no reasonable explanation, he needs to resign. What is quite clear is Mr Taylor knows exactly where this document came from. Mr Taylor knows exactly how those dodgy figures were put out in an attempt to disgrace an elected official. He knows exactly what's going here but he refuses to come clean. He has misled Parliament. He has failed to apologise. He's apologised to Clover Moore, but he hasn't apologised to Parliament. There’s something very, very wrong here and if he attempts to get out of this by throwing one of his staff under the bus that is very, very poor form indeed.
JOURNALIST: Frydenberg has tried to dress up GDP figures. Is he been lying to the public in terms of how bad it is?
JONES: Yet again, the Government is misleading the public. We've got a weak economy that has got weaker. It doesn't matter which way you look at this, whether you're looking at the growth figures, whether you're looking at the wages figures, whether you're looking in business investments, whether you're looking at household consumption or retail demand, we've got a weak economy that is getting weaker and we have got a Government with no plan to do anything about it.
JOURNALIST: We're hearing that tax concessions are being saved rather than people spending them. The Government saying it doesn't have the right to tell people how to spend their money. Do you think that's right?
JONES: You can understand consumers, if they see a government that doesn't have a plan to turn the economy around they're going to be saving for a rainy day. It's quite normal behaviour. That is clearly what consumers are doing. So again, it's incumbent on the Government to send a clear message to business and a households that we've got a plan to turn things around. Instead, they're in denial.