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Financial Accountability for Banks

On the 21st of March I gave a speech regarding a bill that was supposed to ensure more accountability for banks. 


It took Labor a day to renege on a deal struck in good faith with the Greens to introduce million-dollar fines for bankers who break the law. But I thought it would be worth referring to how the Australian Financial Review reported Labor's reneging on a deal because, in many ways, the first two paragraphs speak to everything that is wrong with Australian politics. The headline reads 'Banks force Labor to rethink on $1 m executive fines.' The article says:

Banks have forced the Albanese government to put off the vote on a bill to lift accountability in financial services, with Labor now rethinking a last-minute deal with the Greens that would have added million-dollar fines for law-breaking financial service executives.

The banks, led by former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh, warned the move to put individual fines back into the Financial Accountability Regime (FAR) would have unintended consequences for lenders.

We have an extraordinary situation where a former Labor Premier, now head of the banks, can lead a lobbying effort to overturn a good-faith deal to introduce what I would argue the vast majority of the Australian public would think is pretty straightforward, which is that bankers that break the law should face consequences. We have here an extraordinary example of how power works in this country and who ultimately this government works for, which continues to be the big banks and multinational corporations. You only have to look at the fact that, as people's mortgages go up, people are being evicted from their homes because they can't afford the rent. People—pensioners, low-income residents, even teachers or nurses—are having to make tough choices between paying the bills, feeding the kids or paying housing costs, at the same time as banks like the Commonwealth Bank post record profits of $5.15 billion. We have chronically underfunded schools and hospitals. We have a situation where the government can find $368 billion for nuclear attack submarines but not a single extra cent to lift people out of poverty, or for public or affordable housing, but a banking lobbyist can walk into parliament and get what they want in a day. So why is it that a teacher or a nurse or a low-income resident can't walk into parliament and get the same thing? Why is it that the government will listen to the banking lobby?

*Labor members interjected*

Labor members opposite strenuously defending their decision to back down on the million-dollar banker fines. What's your response to that? What's your response to saying, 'We will roll over for the big banks and cut million-dollar fines when they break the law'? What do you think should happen to them when they break the law? But at the same time you won't stand up for the millions of people in this country who are in need of cost of living relief. You won't stand up for the people who are watching as this government hands $368 billion to the US and the UK for nuclear attack submarines that we are going to get in three decades, but they can't build enough homes to tackle the housing crisis. They can't fully fund our public schools. They can't lift people out of poverty. There are still people having to live on $48 a day, by the way, pensioners still living above the poverty line. You are willing to roll over for the banks in a day, but you can't stand up for the people that you're meant to represent in this place. How often do we see this from this government? Again and again and again. Labor will roll over for the banks, but they won't stand up to the rich and powerful, who are the ones right now making people's lives tough in this country.

Really, when it comes down to it, you only have to look at where the profit is going and where the misery and the terrible cost of living burden is going. While the Commonwealth Bank records a $5.15 billion record profit, rents have skyrocketed, mortgages have skyrocketed, the cost of living has skyrocketed. We know that the Australian Institute found that multinational corporations increased their profits above increases in expenses by $160 billion. The government can't bring themselves to introduce a super profits tax and use that money to actually provide serious cost of living relief, but they will roll over for the banks in a single day.

This incident, reneging on a deal struck with the Greens, speaks to everything that is wrong with Australian politics. We will be moving a third reading amendment. You will get a chance to stand up and explain to your constituents why banks shouldn't be fined $1 million. I'm really looking forward to that, actually. It really reminds me of why so many people are fed up with politics and politicians. I'm sure a lot of them would love you to explain why bankers should get an easy ride and they should get a tough one.

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