House debates

Wednesday, 26 May 2021


Financial Regulator Assessment Authority Bill 2021, Financial Regulator Assessment Authority (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2021; Second Reading

11:56 am

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Financial Regulator Assessment Authority Bill 2021. Can I say, having sat through the speech of the previous speaker, the member for Bruce, it makes me tired of this place. Personal attacks on other members: why can't we be debating ideas in this place rather than constantly sniping? It really does put this place to shame. What I want to do in my contribution is actually talk about some ideas.

This idea, which is going to be legislation now, of establishing a regulator for ASIC and APRA is very important. As we know, it was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, a royal commission that many of us in this place had the idea for and pushed for in different ways. It eventually took the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, kicking and screaming to the decision where he called that royal commission. Now there is hardly anyone who would say that that royal commission was a bad thing, or that the idea of doing it was a bad thing. It proved to be a good thing in coming up with recommendations that would clean up some of the unethical acts that we've seen in the banking sector and in looking at our regulators APRA and ASIC and what they were doing, or what they were not doing, to police banks and insurers.

I hope that this regulator is going to be on the ball in looking at what ASIC and APRA are doing and what they're still not doing. One of the things that have concerned me about ASIC and APRA is their drift into wokeness, their drift into politics, their drift into ideology, their drift into the extreme environmental movement. We now have ASIC and APRA, both, coordinating what essentially is not some government policy but some sort of quasi policy of theirs that they're pushing on banks, on companies and on insurers. What I talk about was reported earlier this in the Australian, on 18 January:

Corporate watchdog puts climate change warnings into action

An internal briefing document to the corporate regulator has shown the regulator putting its climate change warnings into action, revealing deep-dive surveillance of five of the nation’s biggest listed companies.

The document, prepared for internal eyes in August last year, came only two months after ASIC temporarily suspended its investigations in June on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These deep-dive surveillances of five companies in the energy, real estate, materials, consumer staples and industrials sectors have seen corporate regulators examine climate-related disclosures in public documents released by the companies. These include annual reports from those five companies, and any sustainability, environmental or climate change reports or policies.

So what we have is ASIC doing deep dives on major companies in this country, not for some underhanded operations that they've been involved in, not for swindling mum-and-dad investors, not for maybe hostile takeovers or some manipulation of the share market or anything like that, not looking into big banks and their lending practices still, but the focus seems to be on climate change and climate change risk. Okay, we all have to be aware of risks, but what are the actions that ASIC wants to put in place here? It almost seems to me that what they're saying to company directors is, 'Get ready for a change of government policy,' which would only happen if the other side got into power and we have things like a carbon tax or, as they like to call it, 'the fixed price on carbon' or an emissions trading scheme. That's not policy at the moment and it will never be policy while we are in power, I would hope. But if the other side gets into power, yes, there could be a risk to business. But what business is that of a regulator, to be determining what might happen in the future based on politics? It is no business of ASIC. It is also no business of APRA, which is doing exactly the same thing.

I have had people in the insurance sector come to me saying, 'Look, yes, we are driving a bit of a green agenda; yes, we are walking away from some businesses based on the fact that they've got something to do with thermal coal.' But you know what's partly driving it? I'll tell you the three things they said was driving it. The first is activist shareholders; the second is major institutional investors, who are basically activist shareholders themselves; and the third is the regulators going outside of their remit and pushing this woke green ideology on to company directors and saying, 'You've got to do this.' Now, that is beyond the pale; it's not government policy to do it.

What the hell is going on in APRA? What the hell is going on in ASIC? These people need to get back to their core business. Their core business is policemen finding out whether there's white-collar crime going on, whether banks are doing the wrong thing, whether companies are doing the wrong thing, whether they're swindling customers, whether they're swindling investors, whether insurance companies are doing the wrong thing. I have to tell you, there's a plethora of examples still; there was a whole heap of them that weren't touched that the banking royal commission exposed. These people were twiddling their thumbs or had other digits up other places, not doing their core job; instead, focusing on this wokeness—ridiculous stuff. And to think that they're getting paid by the taxpayer to sit around and talk about, 'Oh, what climate change risks might emerge in the future?' and 'We should impose this on company directors,' when it's not government policy. It's not government policy at all. So I say to all those pinheads in APRA, to all those pinheads in ASIC: get back to your core job. I really do hope that the Financial Regulator Assessment Authority that's going to be established is going to have the courage to actually say that to these people in ASIC and APRA. They need to get back to their core business. They need to get back to being policemen for the business sector, for banks, for insurers, for the financial services sector, not being some ideological driver of environmental wokeness.


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