The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. Photo: Louie Douvis PM Malcolm Turnbull has described Labor’s policy as “bank bashing”. Photo: Sanghee Liu
The Labor party took more than $330,000 in donations from the big banks in the 2014-15 financial year, despite Opposition leader Bill Shorten running on a 2016 election platform calling for a royal commission into the banks, dubbed “bank bashing” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australian Electoral Commission data from the most recent disclosure period show the biggest bank donor to the ALP was ANZ, which gave $80,000, followed by the Macquarie Group which gave $72,400. The Commonwealth Bank gave $46,925, NAB donated $35,600 and Westpac gave $34,700. Other, smaller donations were given to the state divisions of the Labor party.
The monies went into the ALP’s coffers to fight the 2016 election, during which Shorten campaigned heavily on the central promise of cleaning up dodgy banking industry practices with a royal commission.
Recently he has pressured Coalition backbenchers to declare whether they support his royal commission, so voters can know “which side they are on”.
The policy has been carried over into the new parliamentary term, and Shorten’s first question to the Prime Minister when parliament resumed on August 30th was on the subject of Labor’s proposed royal commission into the banking and financial services sector.
The big banks also donated more than $600,000 to the Liberal party, at federal and state level.
The Coalition has steadfastly refused to support a royal commission into banking, arguing the sector is already well-regulated and a royal commission could undermine business confidence. Shorten says Turnbull is running a “protection racket” for the big banks.
Shorten called for the royal commission on April 8th this year, at a high-profile press conference flanked with members of his front bench including Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen.
Shorten said that public confidence in the banking and financial services industry had “taken hit after hit over the previous few years”, that retirees had lost their savings and Australian families had lost thousands of dollars through banking industry “scandals” and “rip-offs”.
The Opposition leader said the banking industry problems were long-standing and systemic and a royal commission was about “restoring confidence” in the system.
The shadow treasurer said a royal commission would cost $53 million and last two years.
In the 2014-15 financial year, the ALP also took money from the financial services industry, which is also in the sights of its proposed royal commission.
The ALP banked $21,500 from the Financial Services Council Limited, as well as another $11,100 to the party’s NSW branch.
The Financial Services Council also made a separate donation of $5000 to the federal division of Chifley, the seat of Labor frontbencher Ed Husic, and catered for two separate ALP lunches, at a cost of $2188 and $1718.
The Financial Services Council gave a total of $22,000 to the Liberal party at state and federal level.
Following the recent donations scandal involving Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, the Labor party has called for a reduction in the donations disclosure threshold from $13,800 to $1000, a ban on anonymous donations over $50 and a ban on foreign donations.
ALP General Secretary George Wright did not respond before deadline to a question asking whether the ALP would continue to accept donations from banks.
A spokesman from Mr Shorten’s office said there would be no change to the ALP policy concerning bank donations.