03 August 2016
by Phillip Coorey

Bill Shorten says Malcolm Turnbull can't protect the banks

Labor leader Bill Shorten has challenged the authority of Malcolm Turnbull, saying the Prime Minister's narrow election victory meant he may not be able to protect the banks from a Royal Commission and other policies with which the Prime Minister disagrees.

In Townsville to claim victory in the final seat of Herbert, Mr Shorten said Mr Turnbull's bare majority of 76 lower house seats meant he was "on probation" and his ability to govern now relied on the goodwill of others, including Labor and troublemakers on the Coalition backbench.

"Mr Turnbull has a margin of one seat now. He has 76 seats out of 150 for his party," Mr Shorten said.

"What happens is one of them has to become the Speaker so he gets reduced to 75 seats. That gives him a margin of one vote.

"Now, before the election, the LNP, the Liberals had a 90 seats in the Parliament, now they are reduced to a margin of one vote. That means Mr Turnbull is on probation from his backbench.

"It means stability in Australia depends on Mr Turnbull keeping the goodwill of individuals such as the erratic member for Dawson, Mr (George) Christensen and others."

Mr Shorten said Labor would be constructive in the new Parliament but it would continue to pursue its ideas, including a Royal Commission into the banks.

"Most Australians want a Royal Commission into the banking industry and financial services.

"It seems that when it comes to fighting for Medicare or schools or apprenticeships, Malcolm Turnbull is missing in action," he said.

"When it comes to being in the trenches defending the banks, Mr Turnbull is ready to defend the banks from a Royal Commission. We see financial scandal after financial scandal.

Tens of thousands of people, businesses have been let down by the financial services in the banking industry. Every time there is a scandal, the banks rush out and say 'we have learnt our lesson,' until the next time.

"History keeps repeating. We need a change in the culture and ethics of the banking sector."

Mr Shorten was discussing with his team how to press the issue when parliament resumes.

"Mr Turnbull thinks by scraping over the line by one seat, he can protect the banks from the legitimate scrutiny which Australians are demanding of our banking sector," he said.

He said Labor was prepared to help the government sort out the mess over its backpacker tax. He said he liked a proposal by the National Farmers federation to lower the proposed tax rate on seasonal labourers from 32 per cent to 19 per cent.

Before the election, both parties promised to build a $100 million stadium in Townsville, Mr Shorten said he expected the Coalition government to deliver on the promise, even though it did not win the seat.

The seat was won by Labor's Cathy O'Toole by 37 votes after a recount.

The Coalition is considering whether to contest the result in the Court of Disputed Returns to try and force a byelection.

Mr Shorten said that decision was up to the Liberal Party.

"If they won the seat by one vote, they wouldn't be worried about any legal challenge. Our message has resonated with people in the seat of Herbert. It is up to the Liberals what they do."