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  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Bank Hearing; Tony Abbott Trade Speech in UK; Better Working Holiday Maker Tax Arrangements.
05 October 2016

LAURA JAYES: The Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister, Steve Ciobo joins me now, from Sydney. Minister, thanks for your time.


LAURA JAYES: You would have seen the testimony today, given by the Ian Narev. A lot of questions from both Labor government and Greens members. Is three hours, once a year really enough for CEOs of our four big banks to answer some of these pertinent questions?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, it's obviously more than that, Laura. This is an opportunity for the big banks to be appearing before the Parliamentary Committee in to the economics, which has the same over-sight capacity of the Reserve Bank, which happens more regularly. I think to suggest that's all it is, is not accurate. The simple fact is that this is part of the Government's on-going commitment, to making sure as much as possible, that the banks are able to be held accountable and are able to put forward a view and to be subject to questioning from members of parliament. That's a big step forward, an initiative of the Coalition and not something that you ever saw that took place under the previous Labor government.

LAURA JAYES: The Labor government - the Labor opposition, I should say, is pushing hard for a Royal Commission - is going to be relentless in this. A poll today, and we've seen the sentiment of the public, who really don't trust the banks that they bank with, why not have a Royal Commission? Have you misread the public mood on this?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well you know the extraordinary thing is that when Labor was in power, and I'd reinforce, Laura, the vast bulk of the practices that Labor's been kicking up a stink about, have actually occurred when Labor was in power. I mean never lose sight of the fact, it was actually Bill Shorten who was Minister for Financial Services, when these events took place. I mean Labor was claiming that there was no need for a Royal Commission then. When we came to government as a Coalition, we initiated the Financial System Inquiry, an inquiry to look at what we could do to focus on practices in the financial system, to improve them, to drive a change of culture within financial services, to reflect the fact that we needed to be acting in a way that could bring reassurance to members of the public. Now we've done that.


STEVEN CIOBO: A Royal Commission now, is not going to do anything to change past practices. A Royal Commission now is not going to do anything to change compensation available or payable to members of the public. It's nothing other than a political stunt, which is by virtue of the fact that the Labor Party ignored it, the entire six years they were in power, and suddenly now they think, "Oh no, we've got to have a Royal Commission".

LAURA JAYES: A Royal Commission they are pushing for, but if you don't need a Royal Commission, why do you need a tribunal? This is a fairly new idea that the Prime Minister seems open to.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, because I think that having both the power of ASIC, as well as this questioning by the Parliamentary Committee, all of these are steps in the right direction to bring accountability. I mean you've seen in evidence, that was tended today, that the banks themselves I think are getting the message about the need to respond in a better and more appropriate way, and I think that's a step in the right direction.

LAURA JAYES: Well, what are you waiting for? Will you announce a tribunal?

STEVEN CIOBO: I'm not going to be announcing anything tonight Laura, on the program in relation to banking.

LAURA JAYES: Oh, how disappointing. So no tribunal, well it hasn't been ruled out and of course Ian Narev today seemed quite opened to the idea and even suggested that the industry would fund it. Now it hasn't been ruled out as I say, by the Prime Minister or the Treasurer. There is a lot of support on the Coalition backbench for this. Do you support the idea?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'm a member of Cabinet and the Government will make its position clear in due course, but Laura I mean, let's get to the nuts and bolts of what we're talking about here. Australians are rightly upset when they see practices that see them poorer, or they see practices which basically, they feel have eroded their trust in the banking system and that's understandable.

LAURA JAYES: Should they have a tribunal at their disposal then?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think what needs to be made available, avenues for recourse. In other words, opportunities for Australians to say, "You know what, we don't like what happened here. We want to know that that can be acted upon". That's what the Government's focused on fixing and that's why we had the Financial System Inquiry. These are concrete measures that the Coalition has put in place. They're not stunts that we see from the Labor Party, who incidentally Laura, never forget, the Labor Party themselves, when we launched the Financial System Inquiry in Government, the Labor Party didn't support us on it.

LAURA JAYES: Okay, but what else is the Government actively considering? Is it actively considering a tribunal or you suggest that the Government is looking at other ways for customers who are disgruntled to be able to seek justice, for want of a better term?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we've got a number of initiatives that we've put in place. As I said there are some ...

LAURA JAYES: Is there any new initiatives yet to be announced though?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think there are quite a number of reforms that we're trying to put in place, off the back of the financial system inquiries, meaningful, concrete reforms that will make a difference to financial services in Australia. This is what we're trying to drive forward with.


STEVEN CIOBO: So I think that actually is a big positive step that the Labor Party, frankly should support.

LAURA JAYES: Okay. If I could go more directly to your portfolio, and Tony Abbott has been in London. He's spoken about the need of almost, I won't say Utopian idea but having a free movement between Australia and the UK, and also making sure that our industries fit in with each other's standards, but this seems to have been knocked on the head at the conservative conference in Birmingham. Can you see that happening or is that just a pipe-dream for Mr Abbott?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I was in the UK a couple of weeks ago. It was an opportunity for me to sit down with my counterpart, Dr Liam Fox, and for us to discuss what relations on the trade investment front between Australia and the UK might look like into the future. Now bear in mind, the UK has obviously had the vote around the so-called Brexit. They've then got a process to work through, as they actually delink their economy from the European Union. I was pleased together with Dr Fox, to announce that we would be forming a Joint Working Group between Australia and the UK, to scope out what a free-trade agreement between Australia and the UK might look like, post-Brexit. So I think these are all steps in the right direction.

LAURA JAYES: The working group is all Australia can really do at the moment though, because Theresa May has indicated that Article 50, will be enacted in March of next year, but that doesn't mean Australia can start negotiations. That just means negotiations start with the EU. Is that correct?

STEVEN CIOBO: That's correct. The UK needs to formally exit the European Union before they're in a position to commence formal negotiations around FTAs with anybody, whether it's Australia or any other country. Australia is certainly ahead of the queue. We've formed this Joint Working Group, so I was really pleased that we're taking important steps towards the relationship that we've have with the UK. We've got very strong historical ties. We, of course, have a strong relationship with the UK on the investment front as well, so I'm very confident that we will be able to make quick progress once the UK has actually exited the EU.

LAURA JAYES: One final issue. The backpacker tax has been sorted out, well to some extent it's now been lowered to 19 per cent but the Passenger Movement Charge increased to $5. What do you think of these changes? Because you were overseas last week when this was announced.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, this is a decision the Government took. We fixed the problem with Working Holiday Makers as you'd recall, there were changes that were made around the taxation requirements. The number of working holiday makers, or what are called backpackers, has continued to increase into Australia, but we wanted to make sure though that we took into account, future demand for these services. We've done that. We've done it in a concrete way that's going to make a real difference to backpacker numbers coming into Australia. We've also done it in a way that's responsible. Yes, we've had to increase the Passenger Movement Charge by a modest $5. I mean, bear in mind, Laura, when people are travelling internationally, aircraft ticket prices bounce up and down all the time. $5 is not a big factor for those that are travelling internationally.

LAURA JAYES: But Minister, I think I recall you, just a couple of months ago, in Parliament slamming Labor for the increases they made, when they were in government, to the increased passenger charge, so you've seem to have a change of heart there?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, not at all. The comments I made historically, were about the total pool of taxes that the Labor Party was putting on Australia's tourism industry. Under the Coalition, we've made a modest increase here, but what we've also done, Laura, is put record funding, record funding in to Tourism Australia. We've also reduced visa charges for backpackers that are applying to come to Australia by more than $50. We are also putting a $10-million dollar fund in being able to market Australia as a destination for backpackers.

Backpackers play a really crucial role, not only in terms of, for example, seasonal picking and issues like that in regional Australia, they also play a key role with a number of hospitality businesses, especially in regional centres, so you can hardly compare the track record of the Coalition with record tourism funding and extra funding going towards marketing Australia, as well as reducing visa charges, with the Australian Labor Party, who did nothing except put up taxes because they needed the extra revenue.

LAURA JAYES: Okay Minister Ciobo. Thank you for your time.

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