News National Shorten asks why bank executives have avoided jail

Shorten asks why bank executives have avoided jail

labor banking hearings
Bill Shorten and Clare O'Neil (left) will lead Labor's roundtable hearings into banking misconduct. Photo: AAP
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Bankers who steal from Australians should go to jail, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says.

“If you steal from a bank, you go to jail, but if a bank steals from you, they get a promotion and a bonus and a big car,” he said on Tuesday.

“One of the questions I get when I travel round Australia is ‘how come no one from the banks has gone to jail?’.”

Mr Shorten said it was time for that to change.

“Labor now wants victims to have a seat at the table when the royal commission considers what reforms are required to clean up this sector,” Mr Shorten said.

From this week, Labor will hold meetings in towns and cities not visited by the banking royal commission to try to flush out victims of misconduct who have not been given the chance to tell their stories.

They will start in Adelaide on Wednesday and be followed by Geelong on Friday.

Mr Shorten said he and Labor’s financial services spokeswoman, Clare O’Neil, would lead the meetings.

“Misconduct in the financial services sector is a national issue – and Australians across the country deserve their chance to be heard,” Mr Shorten said.

Labor has been calling for the financial services royal commission to be extended to allow more victims to have their say.

So far, just 27 people have testified to the inquiry, despite 9300 having made written submissions.

Moreover, hearings have been held only in Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin, meaning “regional and rural customers have not had a sufficient chance to have their say”, Mr Shorten said.

The government says the commission’s term will be extended if Justice Kenneth Hayne requests it. He has said, however, he wants it completed promptly.

On Tuesday, Nationals senator John Williams added his voice to calls for the inquiry to be extended.

Senator Williams – who played a critical role inside the Coalition in establishing the inquiry – said the more witnesses Justice Hayne heard from, the more he would reveal.

“This royal commission is a one-off, we probably won’t see another one in our lifetime again,” he told ABC radio.

“Let’s get it right, let’s do it right.”

Extending the inquiry would push it well into the next federal election cycle and allow whichever party wins government to deliver on its recommendations.

Throughout the royal commission, Justice Hayne has highlighted an insidious culture of greed over decency permeating the big banks.

In a scathing three-volume interim report released on September 28, he also criticised timid regulators for being far too soft on bad behaviour.

Justice Hayne will hold one further round of public hearings in November to look at the policy questions that will be dealt with in his final report. His final report is due by February 1.

The next federal election is due by May.

– with agencies