Straight from the Senate - Issue 24
5.00pm | June 18, 2017
1. The Coalition is recklessly indifferent to the crisis in the energy market.
Labor has committed to give full and fair consideration to the findings of the Finkel Review. We’ve offered a bipartisan approach to this issue because further inaction is simply indefensible. Unfortunately some government members are already attempting to undermine the Review. The Prime Minister needs to make it clear to his party room that its time to stop their culture war on energy, and make practical decisions.
2. Gender Segregation report released
On Tuesday I tabled the report of the inquiry that I chaired into Gender Segregation in the workforce. The committee makes nine actionable recommendations, starting with a national policy framework for pay equity in Australia. It we don’t have a plan to achieve pay equity, we’ll never achieve economic justice for women. Read the full report or just the SMH highlights.
3. Senate Inquiry: the Bank Tax
This Friday I attended the hearing into the Major Banks Levy, a new revenue measure announced in the recent Budget. We heard troubling evidence. The Government has rushed this legislation, there is no guarantee that the cost won’t be passed on to customers, and there is no guarantee the levy will raise as much as was claimed by the Treasurer on Budget night. It’s no surprise to learn that the Government has declined to share their modelling. While we're broadly supportive of the levy, Labor remains concerned about the rushed process, and we’re seeking clarification about revenue outcomes and any extra costs for banking customers.
On Thursday our Senate team voted for a Commission of Inquiry into the Banking and Financial Services sector.
While the proposal was supported in the Senate, it ultimately fell just short in the House.
In the past year, more than $300 million has been paid by major banks in fines or compensation for fraud, misleading conduct, illegal conduct or breaching consumer protections. These issues indicate systemic failures. Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services Katy Gallagher has been arguing for a Royal Commission over many months. We supported this legislation because the Prime Minister has failed to take any action, despite the overwhelming evidence of serious problems in the sector.
On Thursday I tabled a Bill to require the Productivity Commission to consider inequality in their work, and had the opportunity to explain the Bill in the SMH and on Sky News. I also wrote a short piece for the Chifley Research Centre.
Inequality is the challenge of our times. Inequality in Australia is at a seventy five year high. The three richest Australians own more than the million poorest put together.
We need to retool our institutions to address this disparity in wealth and income.
My Bill would add inequality to the list of issues the Productivity Commission must have regard to in undertaking its work.
It would also require the Commission to produce an Inequality Report every five years, aligned with the Intergenerational Report, which would assess:
- the effects of economic inequality on intergenerational mobility and access to opportunity
- economic inequality in Australia’s regions and cities, and its impact on both individuals and the performance of the Australian economy
- the extent to which current Government policies affect economic inequality.
The Productivity Commission is a key institution, which both sides of politics has relied upon for economic analysis and advice. Its time inequality was added to its core list of concerns.