Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Corporations and Financial Services Committee; Reference
That all words after "7 December 2020" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whether the government has acted too slowly in implementing the recommendations of the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry".
We have an extraordinary situation unfolding in the chamber today where the Attorney-General, the First Law Officer of this country, brings to this House a motion calling for further scrutiny and further interrogation of an issue which has been subject to a report by the Law Reform Commission of this country.
We believe that there is a need for more sunlight, for more scrutiny and for more interrogation of reports that have been given to this government. We believe that there is a need—now, more than ever—for there to be scrutiny and interrogation of why this government has failed to implement the 76 recommendations of the Hayne royal commission. In fact, we are at 15 months, today, since the Hayne commission handed to the Treasurer and the government of this country 76 recommendations. How many of those recommendations have been implemented to date? Of 76, any guesses? Is it half? Is it half of the 76? Is it a third? Is it a third?
Mr Sukkar interjecting—
I hear the assistant minister over there. Maybe he's informed. He is, after all, the Assistant Treasurer of this country. Perhaps he can give us a help as to how many of the 76. Well, it's not a half. It's not a third. It's not even 10 per cent. Six of the 76 recommendations have been fully implemented. And as we go into a circumstance where Australian households and Australian businesses now, more than ever, are requiring financial protections, are requiring greater oversight and are requiring that the recommendations of this once-in-a-decade royal commission be implemented, we've got the government playing parlour games. We've got the government delaying the implementation. We're not surprised; they did vote 27 times against the royal commission. They're dragging their feet on the implementation of its recommendations.
Now, people might be asking, 'What is the impact of the failure of the government to introduce these recommendations and to legislate for these recommendations?' Well that is, indeed, what an inquiry is needed for, but let me just give you an example of some of the things. We have just come through a season of bushfires, hail, and floods, and yet the government, through all of this, failed to implement the recommended changes to drag insurance contracts into the remit of the unfair contracts legislation. You'd think, at a time when households and businesses throughout the country, are struggling with their insurance claims, now, more than ever, they need the protection of unfair contracts legislation. You'd think that, when they are struggling to have their claims managed properly, we would have the claims management process, as recommended by the Hayne royal commission, brought within the regulation of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. These are the sorts of things that the government has dragged the chain on.
Over 16,000 vulnerable Australians have been sold a dud funeral insurance product—that is, a product that they will most likely never get to claim on and a product in which they are paying more in premiums than they will ever be able to redraw in terms of a benefit. It's still lawful to be selling these products, because the government has done absolutely nothing to implement that recommendation of the royal commission. There is actually a bit of a war going on in social media today, because the hapless assistant minister for financial services has failed to convince her own side to introduce legislation to reform financial planning legislation in this country.
It's extraordinary—absolutely extraordinary. A decision was made in August last year to make some reforms to the education arrangements for financial planners, agreed to by Labor. The bills were introduced into this House in February, yet here we are in May and they still can't get the legislation through the Senate. If they can't get this sort of legislation, which has bipartisan agreement, through the Senate, how on earth are they going to get legislation through a parliament where there's disagreement? This is an absolute joke. They are trying to shed blame home to Labor because of their own hopeless management, and they can't organise a legislative agenda.
This is the sort of government we are dealing with. The Prime Minister stood here yesterday and said that we need to instil confidence in Australian business and the Australian people. Well, one way of instilling confidence in the Australian business community and the Australian people would be to legislate the recommendations of the Hayne royal commission. That is now 15 months overdue, and we have implemented only six of the 76 recommendations. Labor says that this is a matter worthy of interrogation and investigation. If the government wants to spend some time inquiring into something, then how about we have an inquiry into this?
Instead, for reasons best known to themselves, they've decided to launch yet another inquiry into class actions in this country. But I tell you this: they are no friends of consumers, and they are no friends of ordinary battling men and women who have struggled to have their legitimate complaints against unfair product distribution in this country dealt with. If you're a poor, struggling small business, if you're an ordinary consumer, the only way you're ever going to get your day in court is if you can join with other members in a class action and have the ability to pool your resources and have your day in court. Make no mistake about it: this motion and this inquiry is designed to rob those consumers—ordinary battlers, whether a small business or an ordinary consumer—of their ability to pool their resources and join in a class action to have their day in court. It's extraordinary. At a time when there are so many challenges, the government decides that this is the most important thing they need to bring before the House today.
So, we call on all members of this House to reject the proposition put forward by the Attorney-General and vote instead for the amendment moved by me and seconded in this place to ensure that we can have a proper inquiry into the things that are needed, and that is the government's failure to implement the recommendations of the Hayne royal commission. I will say it again, because members in this place need to know this. In the middle of an economic and financial crisis, after sitting on the recommendations of the royal commission for 15 months, just six of the 76 recommendations of the Hayne royal commission have been implemented. This is not an A. This is not an A minus. This is not a B. This is not a C. This is not a D. This is an F—a capital-F fail. The people of Australia deserve better than that. If this government had any pride, instead of moving this silly motion before the House today they'd be coming into the House and explaining why they have done such an appalling job of doing what they committed to do when they received that report. The right thing to do is to reject the proposition put by the Attorney-General and vote instead in favour of the amendment I have moved.