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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41714

Doorstop Sydney

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 03/08/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41714

Subject(s): Banks; Great Barrier Reef; Emma Husar; drought

JOURNALIST: A quick question in regards to, up there, the title of that book you were talking about God and “God is love” and whatever. We have a strong statement today on the banks from the Government’s inquiry. Can God save the banks at this point? Another very damning report.

PRIME MINISTER: The banks, like all of us, should remember that we should do unto others what we would have them do unto us, that's good advice in every time.

The banks must put their customers first. The many failings and wrongs that have been done have all stemmed from a failure to put the customer first, to recognise that banks have a duty to look after their customers.

We’re committed to ensure that those who have done the wrong thing, will be held to account and that the wrongdoing will not be repeated. We've made a lot of reforms already. The Royal Commission is underway. You've seen the recommendations of the Productivity Commission which will obviously be considered by the Royal Commission. We’re very attracted to the proposal to have a principal integrity officer in large financial institutions.

But we will await the final report of the Royal Commission before we respond definitively to the recommendations of the PC.

JOURNALIST: Customers need something now though, don’t they? They need to have their trust back in the banks?

PRIME MINISTER: The only way trust can be restored is by banks changing the culture, and putting customers first and being seen to do so. Actions speak louder than words.

We have made some very important changes to the law. The Banking Executive Accountability Regime is very significant, holding bank executives to high standards of conduct.

We have given additional resources to the corporate watchdogs, in particular ASIC to make sure that wrongdoers don't get away with it. And you’ve seen some examples of wrongdoers being caught and going before the court. You’ve seen huge settlements, look at the huge amount of money the Commonwealth Bank recently paid for fines in relation to financial transactions.

So what we’re doing is we’re cracking down on the wrongdoing. We’re determined to hold the wrongdoers to account and we are changing the law to make sure that banks do the right thing in the future. But there will be more to be done.

JOURNALIST: Holding to account could still include a jail term?

PRIME MINISTER: If people commit breaches of the law and it's a breach of law that has a term of imprisonment as a penalty, then that is obviously open for them to be sent to jail, just like breaching any other criminal offence.

JOURNALIST: In regards to the $444 million given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Why wasn’t anyone else given the chance to bid for that money?

PRIME MINISTER:  What we’re doing is making the single biggest contribution and investment in the health of the Great Barrier Reef, ever. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is an outstanding organisation. This has been done completely transparently, it was in the Budget. It was actually announced before the Budget. It's been considered by the Parliament and passed in legislation, so it's gone through the Parliament. There is nearly a 100 page agreement between the Government and the Foundation as to how the money will be invested and spent. It will all be subject to oversight, both by government and the Australian National Audit Office.

So this is a wonderful investment in ensuring that we maintain the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister, the Emma Husar investigation, is the Department of Finance investigating any of these allegations and if not, why?

PRIME MINISTER: Well you should address those questions to the Minister, but I just want to say that Mr Shorten has to come up front and tell us what he knew and what he and his office knew and when they knew it. His claim that this has all come as a surprise to him is simply not credible.

The allegations are very, very serious. It shows that there is enormous enmity, there's like a civil war going on in the New South Wales Labor Party, that this correspondence, this lawyer's letter to Emma Husar would be leaked. There are very serious allegations there of financial misappropriation of money and other allegations of harassment and bullying.

Mr Shorten has got to be up front now and tell us exactly when he or anyone in his office knew about this, when they knew it and what did they do about it?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you think some of the staff here have as it were, fallen through the cracks in the sense that they don’t seem to have had anywhere to turn to represent their interests?

PRIME MINISTER: Do you mean the staff of Emma Husar’s, is that what you’re referring to?

JOURNALIST: Yes, well, I’m talking about the 20 or so witnesses who were her staff.

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, right. Okay, if we’re talking about people that have allegedly been bullied or treated disrespectfully or inappropriately by Emma Husar - is that what you’re referring to?

JOURNALIST: I’m referring to government employees.

PRIME MINISTER: Okay I understand, I just want to be quite clear. Right, well these people, a number of them have obviously given evidence to the inquiry that the Labor Party is conducting. But going back to your question, they certainly are able to make complaints to the Department of Finance. Again that, any process there would be conducted quite independently of the executive government, of ministers.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on droughts. Hasn’t the situation become quite critical across the country and what is your government going to do to alleviate the pressure?

PRIME MINISTER: The drought in New South Wales is the worst since 1965. It is the worst of the droughts that I’ve seen in the Upper Hunter where Lucy and I have operated a sheep and cattle operation for 36 years. It’s worse than the ’82/83 drought and it’s a lot worse than the 2006/07 droughts. I spent the first week of June as you know, in New South Wales - the Upper Hunter in western New South Wales, central New South Wales and in Western Queensland. It is a shocking drought. Farmers are facing very, very challenging choices, particularly the croppers are going to have to, they will know within the next few weeks whether there’s enough moisture to sow a winter crop. So let’s pray for rain, we really need that moisture so they can get a crop in.

People that are in livestock and sheep and cattle for example, the terrible question is how long do you keep hand-feeding? It’s hugely expensive and you’re doing so in order to keep the stock alive in the hope that it will rain. The alternative is to de-stock and of course if you de-stock and then it rains, it’s going to cost you a lot to restock. Lucy and I have done both, we de-stocked early in 82/83 and we hung on in the 2006/07 drought. It is a really terrible choice that farmers have to make.

Now, we have taken action already. We’ve extended the Farm Household Assistance relief so that it goes for an additional year. It extends that to go out for four years. We will be announcing more shortly but I’m staying very closely and constantly on top of this. I’ve been speaking to Fiona Simson, for example, from the NFF frequently about it. I cannot underline how shocking this drought challenge is. And it puts farmers in a position where they have to make almost impossible choices.

As I said, if you de-stock early and the drought goes on for a year, you’ve made the right decision. If you de-stock and it rains the next week then you’ll be kicking yourself feeling you’ve made the wrong decision. So it is a diabolical time and I just want to thank everybody that is providing support. Farmers need our support and we are providing that. We’ll be providing more, we are working very closely with the State Government here in New South Wales and indeed in Queensland. I was in touch with Niall Blair, the Agriculture Minister about relief only yesterday. We’ll have more to say, but I want to just say to all of the farmers in Australia who are going through this drought, we understand this is the land of droughts and flooding rains. We understand the challenges that you battle with our unpredictable and capricious climate. You put the food on our table and the fibre that we put on our backs. We thank you for your courage and we have your back.

Thank you very much.

Transcript 41714