Sky News AM Agenda with Keiran Gilbert - 4 August 2016

Subjects: Australia on target list for Islamic State terrorists, Banks Royal Commission, Indigenous recognition.

GILBERT: Joining me on the program now, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Senator James McGrath, what is your reaction to this report that we see out of the United States? It is not really surprising the experts much…

SENATOR MCGRATH:  It is not surprising and its pretty sad actually, we have got to think about, what does Australia stand for, we stand for freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, everything we stand for, these ISIS mob, these Islamic nut jobs, they hate us. It is up to us to be vigilant, but it is up to us to defend our freedoms.

I was reading last night that a third of the victims of the lorry terror attack in Nice were actually Muslims. Sometimes we forget that ISIS, their victims are also Muslims. What I was also reading is that the French priest who was murdered in his Church refused to kneel before the two murderers and I think that is what as Australians we have to do, we have to refuse to kneel down, we have got to be proud of the freedoms we have here, stand up for those freedoms, and we have to be vigilant in relation to these crowd sourced attacks and these lone terror wolves out there.

GILBERT:  Indeed, and as we discussed there with Professor Barton it is a reminder of how successful our agencies have been in foiling these plots in recent times given how high a target this country is…

MCGRATH: Totally, and this is based on intelligence and it’s based on intelligence out of the Muslim community as such. So we should not be making the Muslim community the target here, more often than not they are also the victims and it’s important to remember that we get the intelligence from those communities. So it is up to everybody if you are concerned about somebody who might be acting strange to report them to the authorities.

GILBERT:  Let’s turn our attention to domestic issues now, to the banks specifically. Yesterday the Prime Minister toughened the language a fair bit, it was a real shot across the bow for the banks, is this him saying if they don’t lift their game we will back a Royal Commission?

MCGRATH: We are not going to back a Royal Commission, but banks do need to lift their game. The banks, if they are not going to pass on the interest rate cut, do need to come out and explain why.

I should declare a conflict of interest, I have a mortgage, so I want the interest rates to be cut, but a Royal Commission will add nothing to the picture. What we need is the banks to understand that they have a social licence to operate, and rather than sitting in their high rises in Sydney with their huge profits, they need to explain to the Australian people why they are not passing on the interest rate cuts.

What I would also say to consumers out there, some banks and building societies will pass on the interest rate cuts, and as consumers sometimes we underestimate our power, and that people should look at shifting.

GILBERT: But in a political sense it is a potent one, Labor knows it, some of your Coalition colleagues, very much we know in the National Party; they are open and sympathetic to calls for the Royal Commission. This issue is not simply going to fall away here if they continue to thumb their nose at the Government, some of them not even responding to the Prime Minister’s calls for an explanation here. The ANZ did, the others didn’t.

MCGRATH: You don’t need a Royal Commission to find out that banks are sometimes greedy. They are. What we need is for banks to be is to be better. That is my message to the banks, you’ve got to be better at explaining the commercial decisions that you are taking.

GILBERT: The Prime Minister is going to be meeting with the Opposition Leader today about indigenous recognition referendum. Senator McGrath, the PM warning against being too broad in the focus here in terms of discussion of a treaty and so on, that was a message well supported in large part by Tanya Plibersek yesterday. Bill Shorten though wants the treaty idea discussed, he wants it as part of this plan, he is supported in that by many indigenous leaders, not the least of which Noel Pearson…

MCGRATH:  The Prime Minister has more experience than most in running a losing referendum campaign and his experience tells him that for any referendum to pass it needs to be bi-partisan and have broad community support. He and Tony Abbott have made constitutional recognition a priority of the government and he is sitting down with Bill Shorten this morning in Sydney to discuss the referendum and I think any expansion that goes beyond what the government has previously discussed would make it harder for it to pass, but it would be wrong for me to second-guess what is going to come out of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

GILBERT: Finally last week, you said on this program you were part of the canine faction, Kristina Keneally’s puppy over Kevin Rudd, well it turned out to be prophetic, he did not get in.

MCGRATH: Yes, well Kristina has a very nice Labrador and I am still a big supporter of her dog running for the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

GILBERT:  James McGrath thanks for your time.