Dean Smith

In Parliament

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE Banking and Financial Services

December 05, 2017

I know what Senator Macdonald, who is sitting beside me, is thinking. Senator Macdonald is thinking exactly the same thing I'm thinking: Australians have the right to be confused when they hear about the position of Labor senators this afternoon. After all the barking from Labor senators and others in the community about the need for a royal commission, you would have thought, with the government having delivered a royal commission, that they would have been in this place applauding and saying, 'This is a responsible and necessary thing to do', because that would have been the consistent position. If Labor had come into this place supporting the royal commission, that would have been consistent with the sorts of things they've been saying for many months with regard to the need for a royal commission. But, of course, Labor are not consistent. Labor are not consistent on this issue, and they're not consistent on other issues.

It's been clear to me and others that the community and customers of banks require that their issues are better addressed, including with regard to some of the decisions that banks are taking, how banks treat customers and how banks are balancing the competing interests of looking after shareholders and shareholder value in our banking system while at the same time responding to the very genuine concerns and needs that customers of banks have raised themselves.

This is Tuesday of the last sitting week for the year. We only have one more question time tomorrow and then another question time on Thursday—and I know that Senator Macdonald shares my interest in making sure that that is the end of the parliamentary sitting period for this year so that we can get back to our communities and get back to northern Queensland, in Senator Macdonald's case, and Western Australia, in my case. I thought Labor was off to a very good start in question time this afternoon when Senator McCarthy talked about personal income tax cuts. You would have thought that the government talking about and making plans and preparations for personal tax cuts for Australians would be a good thing and would be the sorts of things that people in this place would stand up for and endorse—but no; Labor senators tried to suggest that the government putting its mind to personal tax cuts was a bad thing.

I would argue that personal tax cuts are not only necessary for Australian families; they are actually timely for Australian families. When you reflect upon the success—

Senator Carol Brown: You’ve run out of puff, Steve!

Senator SMITH: Sorry, Senator Brown, I didn't hear that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: To the chair.

Senator SMITH: When you look at the success of the government's economic performance, as detailed in the final budget outcome document that was released in September this year—the prudent financial management that is demonstrated in the outcomes of the last budget that was released in September 2017—you can see that the government is making necessary steps to save taxpayers' money. What's the right thing to do when taxpayers' money is being saved? Those savings should be returned to taxpayers and their families and to businesses themselves.

So I would have thought that this afternoon Senator McCarthy would have come into this place and said, 'Yes, media reports about personal tax cuts for Australian families and businesses next year are a good thing', because that would have been the consistent position. But that is not what we've seen this afternoon. A royal commission, which I think many in the community would agree is a necessary step, has been delivered, has been announced. But Labor senators in this place want to suggest that somehow that is something we should be embarrassed about and that it is something that is not worthy.

As we finish the year 2017, the challenge for Labor is to start to recalibrate its thinking, because 2018 is going to be about the economy. It is going to be about the economy. We know that the government already can tick off media reform; it can tick off childcare reform; it can tick off school reform; it can tick off industrial relations reform; it can tick off the issue of same-sex marriage—it can tick that issue off because, because fingers crossed the matter will be resolved in the House of Representatives before the end of the week—and then this government and the opposition should unite in making sure that economic interests and economic concerns are front and centre. Why? Because we know—Senator Macdonald and I know—that as we travel around communities, especially regional communities, people say to us, 'cost of living pressures'. That is your challenge for 2018. (Time expired)