10 September 2017
Transcript - #2017030, 2017

Interview with Patricia Karvelas, Sky

SUBJECTS: Higgins; ASIC; banking royal commission; same-sex marriage

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Before we get to the broader issues, and there are many of them, let’s start with something that is happening very specifically to you. Are you concerned that Jack Hammond QC will run a preselection candidate against you?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Look, I know in pre-selections all sorts of people can put up their hands. I have no concerns whatsoever regarding my preselection. Let me say this, before the last election we took a very clear campaign on superannuation reforms to the electorate and I know there were a handful of people who were very unhappy that they would be paying tax on their multi-million dollar accounts. Now, the truth is, the Government had a pretty modest proposal for people who had more than $1.6 million in their superannuation. Above that, if they had earnings above that, they would have to pay a concessional amount of tax – 15 per cent – on those earnings. Now that affects less than one per cent of people in our nation, and it is still exceptionally concessional. So, if there are people angry about that, well I suppose they’ll make their case. They did before the last election and they no doubt will again at the next election.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Sure, but this time they are funding a campaign. I mean 800 people have been called. There’s a “bring back Peter Costello” campaign. Have you spoken to Peter Costello about whether he’s been sounded out?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Peter and I had a great laugh about that. Peter is a very good friend of mine and a wonderful mentor to me. Those people who are looking forward to a Peter Costello comeback, I’m afraid he has delivered more than 20 years of service to the Parliament and I think he has well and truly earned his next phase of life.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Ok, he’s clearly not going to put his hand up, but clearly they are gunning for you, Kelly O’Dwyer, because these stories keep coming out. I mean they are clearly doing something in your electorate because they are unhappy about something.

KELLY O’DWYER:

There was a candidate who ran at the last election who was supported by this particular group. Out of the eight people who stood for Higgins, he came eighth. He garnered just under a thousand votes. Look, people will put their hands up in elections; it is the democratic process at work. I just continue to focus on my job and to work exceptionally hard for my electorate. Not long ago I was handing certificates for those people who have made a wonderful contribution in my electorate though the Higgins Service Medal; and I did that with the Governor of Victoria, paying tribute to those people who give up their wonderful time and commitment to others to make our community a better place. Frankly, I’m focussed on what I need to be focussed on and if people want to focus on something else that’s a matter for them.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Just on your portfolio, do you think ASIC should be able to ban financial services workers from performing specific functions? I know that that is one of the recommendations from the ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce. Is that something you would embrace?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We’re coming out with a further consultation around these measures, we think it is very, very important that people be able to have confidence in their financial advisers, and have confidence in our financial system more broadly. And as the regulator ASIC is responsible for policing that together with APRA, they have responsibilities for our financial system overall. We want to make sure that ASIC has the appropriate powers to be able to bring dodgy financial advisers to account, and to make sure that where people are doing the wrong thing that they are no longer able to do that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

What is your time frame for doing that to implement these much stronger regulations?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we’re expecting with our various different reports that are coming into the government, we’re expecting to have those reports and consultations completed before the end of the year, and already we’ve taken very, very strong measures in legislation in the Parliament to lift the standards of financial advisers in particular. We will continue along that reform path. We’ve got legislation coming in this week for our one-stop shop and that will mean that people who have got a dispute with their bank or their financial adviser will be able to have that very speedily rectified with an independent arbiter who will be able to provide compensation where that’s appropriate. But we are looking to do that as expeditiously as possible. These are stronger reforms that make our financial system stronger and give people confidence to know that it is working for them.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On the other issues, I mean a Royal Commission obviously still stays as one of the campaigning slogans of Labor, many others calling for one as well. We’ve seen the problems with the Commonwealth Bank and really, scandal after scandal, aren’t these problems systemic, don’t they need a bigger look at rather than these approaches and these reviews which are very specific but don’t look at the whole sector overall?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, it is very interesting, I mean many of the scandals that the Labor Party refer to, actually happened under their watch, which I think is quite interesting - that when they had the opportunity to call for a Royal Commission they certainly didn’t do that. They, in fact, opposed our Financial System Inquiry, which was a wholesale look at our financial system, and the Government instituted that on coming into government and we have been steadily putting in place stronger measures to protect our financial system. The Government has taken an approach to fix the problems where there are problems rather than simply have a talk-fest that will cost many millions of dollars over a long period of time.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You can’t really call a Royal Commission a talk-fest. I mean Royal Commissions do a lot of work, Royal Commissions aren’t talk-fests. We’re having them into institutional sexual abuse of institutions. We’re having them on lots of issues, they are not a talk-fest are they?

KELLY O’DWYER:

The point I am making is that where you have already identified the problem and we have had a Financial System Inquiry, we’ve had the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman conduct an inquiry; we’ve got APRA conducting inquiries at the moment in relation to the CBA issues that have been raised. We have already had a number of Parliamentary inquiries. You can have a number of these inquiries and simply do nothing or you can take action. And we have identified what problems exist. We know we need to have a one-stop shop for consumer complaints rather than wait for a Royal Commission to tell us that we’re implementing that and we’re doing that this week. We’re forcing those banks and financial institutions that have got problems with their consumers to be accountable to those consumers and to pay compensation where it’s appropriate. There will be an independent arbiter, they will make timely decisions and people will be able to get access to justice and move on with their lives. We are taking action. We are not simply talking.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Just on the issue of same sex marriage, with the Prime Minister fronting that yes campaign in New South Wales for the Libs and the Nats, John Howard wants the same sex marriage legislation produced before the postal survey is closed. Are you going to produce it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, whatever legislation comes before the Parliament will be a matter for the Parliament, it won’t be a Government Bill. It will be a Private Members’ Bill. I think we are getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here. It is a very, very simple question that is being put to the Australian people, it is a question as to whether people want to see the laws changed; whether they want to see same sex marriage or whether they disagree with that. Now I’m someone who’s been long on the record in support of a change to the Marriage Act. I’m looking forward next week to being a member of the Coalition Parties who will convene an event in support of a change to the Marriage Act. This is something that the Australian people will themselves have the ability to have their say on because of the Government’s action in having a postal survey. I would encourage people to fill in that survey. If you believe in long-term committed stable relationships then I think you should be a supporter of the change to the Marriage Act.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So is John Howard wrong? Because John Howard is really one of the strongest voices of the No side. And clearly part of the argument is going to be vote No if you don’t know what the legislation is. Aren’t you weakening your Yes case by not producing it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

No I don’t think that’s true at all, it’s a very simple question that’s being put in the postal survey and those people who have got other issues that they would like to canvass, obviously those issues will be canvassed at a time that the legislation comes before the parliament, if, in fact, there is a Yes vote, which I firmly believe there will be. I think it’s important that we have a very good and respectful discussion. Those people who are trying to create issues around churches being forced to marry people who they otherwise wouldn’t choose to marry, that is complete furphy. Of course there will be religious protections. Right now, today, churches can refuse to marry someone that they don’t want to marry. That will exist whether or not there is a change to the Marriage Act. I know that, for instance, I can’t rock up to a particular church, or I couldn’t before I got married, to a particular church and insist that they marry me because, of course, these are religious institutions. And they should be protected whether they are churches, whether they are mosques, whether they are synagogues. No one is arguing that there should be changes there. Equally, we have anti-discrimination laws that exist today and haven’t changed for many, many years, and no one is talking about making changes there either.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So this week we’re going to see a bill for protections in the advertising and all of the rules around authorisation. The marriage equality campaigner, Rodney Croome, wants parliament to pass a law guaranteeing truth in advertising and providing protection against vilification to create strong ground rules. Is that something you’d support?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think it’s very disappointing that those people who are now asking parliament to consider this particular issue had in fact the opportunity, if they had supported our much stronger measures through legislating this particular plebiscite vote, there would have been all of those protections in that legislation. The Government, of course, has said that we are very open to making sure that additional protections can be put in place. Those protections that would apply in the ordinary course of an election ballot, those protections should, in fact, be authorisations around particular pamphlets and the like, those sorts of things should be in place. There are already, though, protections as part of the criminal code, as part of our criminal laws that there shouldn’t be interference with postal ballots, just as there are laws to protect the collection of Australian statistics.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Just if I can politely interrupt, but clearly right now there’s meetings between Labor, who wants to go a bit further than just those election laws, and the Government. Some reports, The Guardian’s reporting they’re getting closer to an agreement. Do you think it should go a little further than just plain election laws, because this is obviously a very sensitive social issue?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, Labor, of course, are playing politics with this very important issue, which I think is very upsetting for a lot of Australians. Labor, of course, had the opportunity when they were in Government to actually pass these changes…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Sure, let’s not look for that, let’s look forward to this legislation…

KELLY O’DWYER:

No, no – they chose not to, they chose not to support the legislation in the parliament. Now, of course, they’re coming up with another reason to actually impede the Australian people having a say on this issue. The Australian people will have their say because this Government has been very clear in the lead up to the last election in delivering on that election commitment. That is the right thing to do, I will be arguing very strongly that people should use their vote in response to a Yes campaign and I believe very strongly that that will be the outcome. Now those people who want to confuse the issue, those people who want to interfere…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But on the protection, this bill for protection, should it go further than the simple AEC election rules?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we’ve got anti-discrimination laws in place right now, we have got electoral protections that apply to any other election. I’m not quite sure why it is that people would want to see freedom of speech impeded beyond what would ordinarily exist in an election campaign. Frankly, I think we should have a very respectful debate and those people who do not engage in a respectful debate, I think, will be condemned by their fellow Australians. I have every confidence that the Australian people will be able to make a very strong and considered decision on this important social change. I’ll be arguing for a Yes vote, as will many of my colleagues.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And what’s this event that you’re going to be part of this week, clearly you’re campaigning, what will it look like?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We’re going to have an event in the parliament with those Coalition members, both on the Liberal and National team, who support a change to the Marriage Act. Rather than announce all of those details on your program tonight, Patricia, I might simply say to you stay tuned, because we are very keen to show our strong support.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Kelly O’Dwyer, thank you so much for your time.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great to be with you Patricia.