House debates

Tuesday, 2 April 2019


Treasury Laws Amendment (Design and Distribution Obligations and Product Intervention Powers) Bill 2018; Consideration in Detail

6:03 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Justice) Share this | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak on the amendments that are being moved to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Design and Distribution Obligations and Product Intervention Powers) Bill 2019. Labor was always very supportive of this legislation. I'm actually even more pleased to be here speaking on the amendments, because they do make some important changes that will help protect Australians from dodgy conduct by financial providers.

I want the House to be under no illusion though. These are Labor's amendments. They're amendments that we pushed for the moment that the design and distribution obligations bill was presented into the House, and, in fact, the government fought them for a long time. I do want that to be understood for the public record.

What Labor called for initially was for products such as buy-now pay-later to be included in the scope of the bill. We wanted the government to include dodgy funeral expenses products in the bill and we wanted credit providers to be covered by design and distribution obligations under the bill too. I'm very glad the government has come to the table with these amendments. It's better late than never. Unfortunately, it does reflect the very slow and lazy attitude towards regulating financial misconduct that we've seen from the government over a long period of time.

Labor initiated a Senate inquiry into this bill. That inquiry, led by Labor, proposed the amendments that are being put forward by the government today. The government senators in the other place actually opposed that report where Labor recommended the changes that are before us. Since then, this bill's been languishing on the Notice Paperand, every week, my office looks eagerly to see whether it might be listed for debate and discussion in the House. But the government has refused, time and time again, to bring it on for debate. It is almost as if they've been hiding the bill for fear of what we believe is a commonsense approach to getting fairer outcomes for Australians.

We all know the government's record on these matters. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a financial services royal commission. Those on the other side, instead of siding with ordinary Australians, did everything they could to stop the big banks from being subject to proper accountability. They voted against a royal commission 26 times and, instead of fighting for ordinary Australians, they used their energy to push for $17 billion in tax cuts for the big banks. It's very unfortunate that that attitude bled into the way they've handled this bill. This is another sorry entry on the government's appalling record on financial services. It demonstrates a complete lack of judgement by those opposite. It's a government that refuses to lead and, instead, time and time again, as we've seen on these crucial issues of financial services, is actually being led by the opposition.

The amendments will implement recommendations made by Commissioner Hayne which were belatedly accepted by the government after the Hayne royal commission report was finally handed down. The amendments will allow ASIC to properly regulate the products that I've described and help to better protect consumers from harm. They should always have been in the scope of the bill, and Labor pushed the government for months to agree to some accommodation to the changes that we were suggesting. The amendments will bring consumer credit products such as credit cards, personal loans and home loans within the scope of the designer distribution obligations. When you think about it, it is utterly bizarre that, under the government's original bill, banks would have had to prepare target market determinations for a basic deposit account but not for a credit card and a home loan. That's how wrong they got it on the first go. ASIC called for the changes that are being made today, Labor called for the changes and the royal commission backed us in. It was only then that the government folded and said it was going to agree with the suggestions that Labor was making.

The amendments before us will implement two other recommendations that arose from the Labor senators' report from the Senate inquiry into this bill. Under the government's original bill, companies are liable to compensate consumers if they do not review or properly implement a target market determination. However, they are not required to compensate consumers at all if they've failed to make a target determination in the first place. This amendment will fix that loophole. If a company fails to make a market determination when it's required to, consumers will be able to access compensation for any loss as a result. It's only logical that some of these changes be made, and I'm very pleased to be on my feet and supporting the amendments.

The final point I'll make is that the amendments that the government is putting forward today are in part implementing some of the recommendations of the Hayne royal commission. What we've heard from those on the other side of the chamber is that the royal commission is too hard and that we've got to do so much consultation and we've got to wait, delay and obfuscate before we get on and implement the royal commission's recommendations. Well, here we are in the chamber, right before the eyes of the Australian people, starting to implement its recommendations. All that shows us is that if this government really cared about financial services, if they really cared about protecting Australians from the big banks, they would have called the parliament previously and we'd be implementing more of those recommendations right now.

Question agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.


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