Scott Morrison tries to head off Bob Katter revolt over banking royal commission

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The first downpayment for the $180 million for the Hughenden irrigation scheme on the Flinders River has been paid but $54 million for the Big Rocks Weir near Charters Towers remains on hold while consultation is under way.

A government source said the Coalition was confident Mr Katter would not vote with Labor because “he wants his dam”.

Asked twice on Monday whether the deal would be off if Mr Katter did side with Labor and the other crossbenchers, Mr Morrison sidestepped, claiming the question was essentially hypothetical.

“[There are] too many ‘ifs’ in the question so I don’t intend to entertain it,” he said.

Labor refuses pairs

Labor remains optimistic it will secure the vote of Mr Katter and those of the other six crossbenchers for its motion.

On Monday, manager of Opposition business Tony Burke wrote to his government counterpart, Christopher Pyne, informing him Labor will not grant the government any pairs “for any vote requiring an absolute majority of 76 Members in the House of Representatives”.

A “pair” is when one side of the House withdraws an MP from voting if an MP on the other side is absent for illness or other compelling personal reasons.

In this case, if a Coalition MP was sick, for example, Labor would have to excuse one of its MPs from voting and that means it could not reach the 76 votes needed to pass the motion to force the extra sitting hours.

In a bid to retain the political ascendancy on the royal commission in the wake if its findings being released last week, Labor wants Parliament to sit for two weeks in March to start implementing some changes.

It has suggested a handful of recommendations that could be implemented quickly by tweaking existing legislation.

It has nominated ending grandfathered commissions for financial advisers, banning the hawking of superannuation and insurance products, extending unfair contract terms to insurance, and cracking down on junk funeral insurance policies as the low-hanging fruit that can be speedily legislated.

Mr Morrison said 40 of the 76 recommendations required legislation, that they all should all be done at the same time, and that there was not enough time to do all that before the election, due in May.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says some measures from the Hayne final report can be introduced quickly. Alex Ellinghausen

“You cannot go and put together what is at least 40 pieces of legislation, or thereabouts, scramble it together in a couple of weeks, throw it into a feverish sitting of the Australian Parliament just before the election and then be surprised at the result that you think that you might get on the other side,” he said.

“I would call that type of financial legislation reckless.”

Push for ‘good things’ now

Labor’s treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said Labor was not proposing legislating everything at once, just a few measures.

“What we are suggesting is that there are sensible good things that the Australian people deserve now,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it would be reckless to introduce legislation arising from the royal commission in a piecemeal fashion. LUKAS COCH

“There are some which are so self-evident and obvious and easy to draft and would receive bipartisan support, probably unanimous support across the Parliament.”

Mr Morrison attacked Labor for continuing to push on the issue and claimed that when it was last in government it did nothing to try to reform the financial service sector.

“He doesn’t understand how to legislate financial services reform. Now, there’s a good reason, he’s never done it,” he said of Mr Shorten. “Nothing. Zip, zero!”

When it was pointed out Labor had introduced the Future of Financial Advice reforms that the subsequent Coalition government tried to weaken, Mr Morrison claimed they were “underwhelming”.

Mr Morrison also said he wanted to see crooked executives from past scandals penalised for their actions.

“It’s courts that are going to determine that,” he said of the 24 referrals by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne to ASIC to consider whether to refer them to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

“Yes, I want to see people face consequences for their actions.”

‘Restoring trust’

He noted the appointment to ASIC of litigator Daniel Crennan. “We did think that ASIC needed to pony up a lot more on this, and you know … take these things to court,” he said.

“Dan Crennan is a very good litigator and I’m sure will be doing an excellent job.”

This sitting fortnight, the government will make a start in the royal commission by establishing the capability review of APRA, setting up a $30 million compensation scheme of last resort, and extending existing legislation that would see directors subject to civil penalties for breaches of their best interests obligations to include trustees.

“The Coalition government received Commissioner Hayne’s final report on the Friday, we responded to it in full on the Monday and now we are getting on with the job of restoring trust in Australia’s financial system as part of our plan for a stronger economy,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

“The Labor Party received Commissioner Hayne’s Final Report on the Monday and, more than one week later, they still only ‘agree in principle’ with its recommendations.”

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