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    Malcolm Turnbull is becoming increasingly isolated in his opposition to a banking royal commission following calls today from the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, for the Government to reconsider one as an option.

    The chorus of people calling for a royal commission continues to grow, including from some on Malcolm Turnbull’s own backbench, but the Prime Minister stubbornly continues to protect his banker mates over everyday Australians.

    Ms Carnell, who has recently inquired into bank lending practices to small business and found evidence of “unconscionable behaviour” today admits:

    “The government can’t keep putting the royal commission off the table, it may have to reconsider it as an option.” – The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 25 June, 2017.

    Malcolm Turnbull cannot continue to rule out a royal commission in the face of calls for one from experts, his own backbench and the majority of Australians.

    Labor has known for sometime that a Royal Commission is the only way to get to the bottom of the systemic failures and cultural issues within financial services sector, ensure that consumers are protected from the rip-offs and scandals of the past and that Australians banking and financial system remains strong, profitable and well led.

    Under Malcolm Turnbull the big banks will get a tax cut but under Bill Shorten they will get a Royal Commission.

    SUNDAY, 25 JUNE 2017


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    While the Turnbull Government is focused on fighting each other over energy policy, small businesses are literally paying the price of the Government’s inaction as energy prices escalate across Australia.

    Businesses in New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia are set to pay up to 20 per cent more in just 10 days’ time.

    Small businesses across the country are already struggling to meet rising electricity and gas bills, and the continued policy uncertainty will do nothing to help them meet the escalating cost of running their businesses.

    The issue of rising energy bills is raised at every single small business meeting I attend around the country. Small business owners tell me that they will have to reduce staff, cut back on their business operations or close their business if something is not done to put downward pressure on energy prices.

    The concerns raised with Labor by businesses across the country are supported by the Council of Small Business and the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s public comments today.

    The Council of Small Business is right when it says “inaction will cost jobs” and failure to act will “destroy” mum and dad operators.

    Labor stands ready to work with the Government to deliver a solution to the current energy crisis in the nation’s interest and in the interests of small business and households.

    The Turnbull Government likes to pretend it’s the friend of small business but the reality is its continued failure to fix the energy crisis is crippling the small business sector.

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    The Senate has today acted where the Prime Minister has been too weak to act by passing legislation that would establish a Commission of Inquiry into Australia’s Banking and Financial Services.

    In the House of Representatives this afternoon, Government members blocked the progress of this legislation. Shamefully, the Member for Dawson George Christensen – who claims to support an inquiry into the banks – sided with the Government.

    George Christensen talks a big game in Queensland, but as soon as he’s in Canberra he does whatever Malcolm Turnbull tells him to do.

    Malcolm Turnbull has George Christensen on a short leash – it’s so short, he can’t even cross the floor of the parliament to support a commission of inquiry into Australia’s banks.

    When Mr Christensen returns to Mackay this weekend, he should explain to his constituents why he did the exact opposite of what he promised.

    Labor maintains our position that the Turnbull Government should establish a Royal Commission into Australia’s banks but we have supported this legislation due to the complete failure of leadership from the Prime Minister to establish one.

    Labor will continue to do everything we can to get to the bottom of the systemic failures and cultural issues within financial services sector, ensure that consumers are protected from the rip-offs and scandals of the past and that Australians banking and financial system remains strong, profitable and well led.

    Under Malcolm Turnbull the big banks will get a tax cut but under Bill Shorten they will get a Royal Commission.

    On the Turnbull Government’s watch the list of scandals and investigations into the banks continues to grow. In the past year more than $300 million has been coughed up by the big banks in fines or compensation for fraud, misleading conduct, illegal conduct or breaching consumer protections.

    In the last month we have learnt that;

    • The Banking Executive Accountability regime will not protect consumers as it will be limited to poor prudential outcomes only – these new  powers would not have prevented the scandals that have ruined so many people’s lives in the past and it won’t protect them going forward.

    • The Government’s new ‘one-stop-shop’ complaints authority will not have any new or additional powers that existing disputes resolution bodies don’t already have. 

    • The banks are not adhering to unfair contracts terms legislation, with the Small Business Ombudsman finding that not one small business loan written by the big banks since November is compliant with these laws. 

    • The Small Business Ombudsman is now investigating potential systemic issues in relation to the takeover of Bankwest. 

    • ASIC has concerns about the delays in reporting potential breaches to the regulator by the banks 

    • ASIC has launched a special investigation into loan fraud.

    • ASIC is investigating insurers for false and misleading and unconscionable conduct in relation to add-on insurance products.

    • The Government is dragging its feet on new penalties and rules for bank bill swap rate rigging and looks set to miss the 2017 winter sittings timeframe for introduction set by the RBA, Treasury, APRA and ASIC. 

    • Other legislation has been delayed including reforms to Small Amount Credit Contracts (Payday Loans) an ASIC product intervention power,  and much needed credit card reforms

    • The Government has failed to update and finalise the ASIC Statement of Expectations which now hasn’t been updated since 2014. 

    THURSDAY, 15 JUNE 2017

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    The list of organisations that support Labor’s proposed Director Identification Number continues to grow, with the Tax Justice Network signalling its support for this important measure to help catch dodgy directors of fraudulent phoenix companies.

    Supporters of a Director Identification Number now include:

    • Australian Institute of Company Directors
    • Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
    • Productivity Commission
    • Tax Justice Network
    • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    • Master Builders Australia
    • Australian Council of Trade Unions
    • Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association
    • Phoenix Project, comprising experts from Melbourne University Law School and Monash University Business School

    Alas, one body has still failed to signal its support for a Director Identification Number:

    • The Turnbull Government

    TUESDAY, 6 JUNE 2017

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    The latest Akamai State of the Internet Report is a damning indictment on the Turnbull’s mismanagement of the NBN – with Australia’s 2.1 million small businesses enduring amongst the poorest average internet speeds in the developed world.

    At the 2013 election Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised that he could deliver his inferior version of the NBN faster and cheaper with three key commitments:


    • Minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second to all Australians by the end of 2016.
    • A public expenditure limit of $29.5 billion.
    • A commitment that areas most under-served by existing telecommunications infrastructure would be prioritised in the rollout.

    (Source: Liberal policy document - Fast Broadband & an Affordable NBN)

    The unfortunate reality is that under Malcolm Turnbull’s stewardship the NBN has failed to meet any of the benchmarks he set for it.

    The Turnbull Government has only delivered average connection speeds of just 11.1Mbps to-date.

    That dismal result means Australia’s has the embarrassing global rank of 50th for internet speeds behind key trading partners South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the United States and New Zealand.

    Everywhere I go and speak to small business owners, I hear loud and clear that they are desperate for world-class broadband to assist with their business.

    That’s because they understand what Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t: That in order to compete in our highly competitive global economy Australian small businesses need access to world-class broadband to grow their business and sell their products and meet their customers expectations.

    Today’s report  along with the 2017-18 Budget proves beyond a doubt that the Turnbull Government has no answers for small businesses looking to compete in an increasingly competitive local, national and global environment.


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    Malcolm Turnbull's Small Business Minister, Michael McCormack needs to come clean on why the Government’s much promoted small business roadshows have been held almost exclusively in Liberal/National electorates. 

    90 per cent of the small business roadshows publicised on the Small Business Minister’s website have been held in electorates where the Government holds the seat with the local Liberal/National MP present as well as public servants from the Australian Tax Office, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and the ACCC.

    Only three Roadshows have been held outside of Liberal/National electorates and in none of those was the local member invited with the Minister instead preferring to bring along a neighbouring Government MP or Senator.

    Labor believes that the small business roadshow program is a good initiative but the fact that the forums have been held almost exclusively in Liberal or National Party electorates, supported by taxpayer funds and with the attendance of public servants, is deeply concerning.

    Ministers must act with integrity at all times, particularly when it comes to the use of public money and the public service.

    The Minister must provide a full explanation over why it appears that he has used his ministerial portfolio and taxpayer funds in a politically partisan way.

    The small business roadshow should be reaching out to all small businesses across the country, not just reaching out to those who voted for a Liberal or National MP in 2016. 

    THURSDAY, 1 JUNE 2017

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    Reports that national cultural institutions are being forced to cut corners and their collections are at risk due to funding cuts again confirm the Government’s neglect of the arts sector.

    Years of neglect and cuts have meant Australia’s national and cultural institutions are finding it harder and harder to do their job of protecting Australia’s culture, heritage and stories.

    The small amount of funding the Government has provided for capital works simply isn’t enough.

    Labor has welcomed this funding but it doesn’t go anywhere near replacing the money that has been cut out of the budgets of these institutions. Labor’s policy was to not apply efficiency dividends to cultural institutions.

    While it is important government agencies improve efficiency and make savings by consolidating services where possible, for smaller agencies like Canberra’s National Library, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery, National Museum, National Portrait Gallery there comes a point where efficiencies cut to the bone.

    National institutions play a critical role in Australia and in Canberra, housing stories of Australian culture and keeping those stories alive for visitors now and in the future.

    It is vital we do not let these institutions wither away and only Labor can be trusted to properly protect the custodians of our national stories, history and physical treasures.

    “These cultural institutions are Australia’s storybook. Through objects, archives and art they house the stories of Australia.” – Tony Burke MP

    These institutions play a crucial role in supporting Canberra as the national capital as well as providing hundreds of jobs for Canberrans.“ -  Senator Katy Gallagher

    “Our cultural institutions are an essential part of Australia's social fabric. In an era of declining community engagement, it's critical that we properly fund our museums and galleries.” –  Andrew Leigh MP

    “We are not cutting into flesh; we are not cutting into bone; we are cutting into vital organs. And, once you start doing that, you have the potential for things to end, for our national story to be killed.” - Gai Brodtmann  MP

    This is a joint media released with Tony Burke MP, Andrew Leigh MP and Gai Brodtmann MP.

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    The game is officially up on the Treasurer’s key claim that his bank tax won’t be passed on to Australian consumers.

    The Treasury regulatory impact statement that accompanied the bank levy legislation on the Government’s bank tax actually envisages the tax being passed on to consumers and others:

    “It can be passed through to those the banks lend to (in respect of residential mortgages, business lending and personal credit), deal with or provide services to, or their non-equity funding sources (wholesale capital markets, depositors) or be borne by the banks themselves (through reduced profits, or via increased efficiency or other cost-cutting measures).” (page 35)

    This comes on top of revelations of a $2 billion black hole on the bank tax and Senate Estimates being told about criminal investigations surrounding leaking of official information that bank shares lose billions of dollars of value.

    The Finance Minister was today running a protection racket for the Treasurer, refusing to release the Treasury economic modelling the legislative documents say has been done and stopped Treasury officials answering questions about the assumptions in the modelling.

    A central claim from the Treasurer from Budget night onwards is that the banks won’t pass on the cost of the bank tax to bank customers.

    At the same time the Treasurer has argued that this measure “levels the playing field” and will somehow boost competition.

    The only way the second argument works is if the first argument crumbles – that the bank tax cost needs to be passed on in order to be a pricing single to consumers.

    Labor’s in-principle support for the Government’s bank tax is not a blank cheque for the Treasurer’s incompetence and we will continue to explore these issues through a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

    TUESDAY, 30 MAY 2017

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    Australian Tax Office Commissioner Chris Jordan this morning has confirmed the need for action on dodgy phoenix operators, who deliberately burn companies in an attempt to avoid their obligations to employees, taxpayers and honest businesses.

    The Tax Commissioner told a Senate Estimates Committee:

    “This is not a new issue. Phoenixing is a big problem, especially when you have these people that are unassociated with the principals. You can’t keep track.”

    When speaking on how easy it is to become a company director in Australia, Mr Jordan told one Senator

    “I could appoint you as a company director without you even knowing and me then controlling the company”

    The Tax Commissioner also noted that in other countries, proper identification checks are required for anyone wanting to become a director.

    Illegal phoenix activity costs our economy billions of dollars annually. That’s why Labor last week announced measures to crack down on dodgy directors:

    • Requiring all company directors to obtain a unique Director Identification Number with a 100-point identification check.
    • Increasing penalties associated with phoenix activity
    • Introducing an objective test for transactions depriving employees of their entitlements
    • Clarifying the availability of compensation orders against accessories
    • Consulting on targeted integrity measures based on the recommendations of the Melbourne Law School / Monash Business School Phoenix Research Team recommendations.

    Among the bodies that support Labor’s call for a Director Identification Number are:

    • The Productivity Commission
    • The Australian Institute of Company Directors
    • The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
    • The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    • Master Builders Australia
    • The Australian Council of Trade Unions
    • The Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association
    • The Phoenix Project (comprising experts from Melbourne University Law School and Monash University Business School)

    As one expert said today:

    “you can, almost literally, register your dog as a company director”

    Why is the Turnbull Government letting dodgy directors off the leash?

    TUESDAY, 30 MAY 2017

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    Last week’s revelations of a $2 billon black hole in the Government’s bank tax have been compounded with Senate Estimates uncovering details around the leaking off official information concerning the bank tax on Budget day while the market was still trading.

    The Treasurer needs to come clean and tell the Australian people that he or his office weren’t involved in this leak that saw billions of dollars in bank share value lost in the afternoon trading.

    Treasury Secretary revealed in questions from Labor Senators that ASIC and the AFP were investigating the leak.

    Mr Fraser confirmed that critical information relating to the time he was due to call bank CEOs was published as part of the bank tax leak was closely held by “four or five” Treasury officials, staff in the Treasurer’s office and “the Treasurer would have been aware too”.

    The Australian Financial Review reported online at lunchtime ahead of the Budget lock-up on Tuesday 9 May that:

    The sources said Treasury Secretary John Fraser will call the big four bank chief executives on Tuesday night at 6.30pm before Mr Morrison delivers the bad news.”

    Mr Fraser confirmed Treasury staff were cooperating with ASIC in its investigation.

    The Treasury Secretary added that:

    “On the basis of what we have been told by our staff, on the basis of informed discussions with my senior executives as to who knew when what, I would be devastated. I remain, I would be devastated, if I had thought that one of my staff had been responsible for this. I have seen nothing in the time I have been Secretary to make me think that it came from Treasury, but can I give you a guarantee? No. I don’t think anybody can.”

    The Treasurer needs to be similarly as transparent as the Treasury Secretary and outline what steps he has taken to ensure himself that the leak did not originate from his office.

    MONDAY, 29 MAY 2017

    This is a joint media release with Labor's Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen MP.

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