Banking Laws Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill 2015 - Speech 1

I was trying to figure out what had happened. I had to go and get my hair cut and so I missed some of the intervening debate. When I left, we were talking about banking laws and, when I came back, Senator Macdonald was making a fine contribution on other matters. 

But I am glad that we are still on the same topic. I do not share the rhetorical gymnastic skills of Senator Macdonald to tie those issues into this bill, but, since he has already done so, I will use it as an opportunity to back the points that Senator Macdonald was making. Put very simply, we cannot change the temperature of the globe from a room in Canberra—we cannot do that. We might love to be able to do that and we may want to be able to do that, but we cannot. I am very proud to be part of a party with a strong history and record of practical and pragmatic action for people in this country, and we cannot practically change the temperature of the globe from Canberra. It has to be something we do globally, and I would be very opposed to any move that puts at risk one job or one Australian family's ability to provide for themselves—a move based on some ideological, passionate debate that seeks to do something that we cannot do. I am on a unity ticket with Paul Howes on that: if it is to cost one job, we should not do it. On our own we cannot do anything to change the temperature of the globe.

That somehow brings me back to the Banking Laws Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill. I am happy to share Senator Macdonald's support for this particular piece of legislation. We should at all times try to provide consistent laws for the Australian people so that they can plan their futures and understand the laws of the land and comply with them. We should avoid haphazardly changing what has been in place for decades and, in this case, for more than a century—for almost the entirety of our federation. For almost the entirety of this parliament, people could be assured that, if their money was in the bank and they had not touched it, it would not be taken off them for at least seven years. There was a seven-year period in place to ensure that people who were using an account in that period did not have that money taken from them. For reasons I will go into later, in 2012 the then Labor government decided that they needed more cash and so they raided people's bank accounts. It was the wrong thing to do; they made a futile attempt to hit an unachievable budget surplus target and so they raided the bank accounts of Australian people. There is hardly a lower act of that former government, even though they did lots of low acts—

Senator Kim Carr:  "It was in your budget twice!"

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT:  "Order! Order on my left."

... to try to meet a futile promise to the Australian people to balance the budget by raiding their bank accounts. That is exactly what they did.

Senator Kim Carr:  "It was in your budget twice!"

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT:  "Senator Carr!"

The only reason they did it was to bring some more money into the forward estimates so that somehow their budget looked better. They wanted to do that on the backs of hardworking Australians who save their money. I am very happy that this government rejects that approach. We will be returning to the historic precedent of 101 years of not touching people's bank accounts for seven years. If people have used that account within that seven-year period in some shape or form, they can be assured, after this bill goes through, that it will remain their money.

My colleague, Senator Williams, made a good point earlier: when that raid occurred on people's money some years ago, a few people were caught red-handed in the act. Senator Wong was there as finance minister; Senator Conroy was part of cabinet; I am not sure whether Senator Carr was in cabinet—he was in and out a few times—

Senator Kim Carr:  "Come on!"

Were you there, Senator Carr? Perhaps you can enlighten me.

Senator Kim Carr:  "Come on! I was only in Siberia for a while."

There were various criminals over there who were caught red-handed raiding people's bank accounts. I will give them this: when they were caught in the act of raiding people's money, they owned up to it. Congratulations to the Labor Party—they have done that now. I am thankful that they have owned up to the fact that they conducted this raid and they will now be making efforts to compensate people by returning the law to where it was. Thankfully, they have finally seen the light in that regard, and we can count of their support and the support of other sensible political parties in this chamber to make sure we return the savings of hardworking Australians to their control.

We need to pass this bill very quickly because we want it to take effect before the end of this year so that any uncertainty can be removed. It is a great credit to the government that it has brought this bill forward. This bill also provides a number of protections to improve its implementation and application. We will be exempting children's accounts; if someone has put money into their child's account and that money is not touched for seven years, it will not disappear—

Senator Kim Carr:  "It's because you have no other legislation!"

The PRESIDENT:  "On my left."

There has been some benefit from the Labor Party's act of theft some years ago. We have made this legislation better and I am glad—

Debate interrupted.

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