Wednesday, 4 August 2021
Financial Sector Reform (Hayne Royal Commission Response — Better Advice) Bill 2021; Second Reading
Westpoint, Trio, Opes Prime, CommInsure, Timbercore, Storm Financial, fees for no service, forged signatures on loan documents, breaches of anti-money-laundering laws—the list goes on. Australians have had a gutful of wrongdoing in the financial sector, and yet the Liberals have consistently fought against stronger consumer protections. Labor's Future of Financial Advice reforms, which required an annual opt-in to commissions so people couldn't simply have money taken out of their accounts without their knowing, was opposed by the Liberals year after year. Senator Bragg last year finally confessed that the Liberals had done the wrong thing in opposing FOFA. But, as the member for Fraser noted in that debate the two of them had at an AFSA event, the Liberals have for too long been in the pockets of the financial industry. The royal commission was opposed by the Liberals for 18 months. They voted against it 26 times. The Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has apologised, but the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has never apologised for delaying a royal commission into the financial sector and for only supporting one after the Australian Banking Association finally called for one.
When the report was finally brought down, you had that awkward photo-op between the Treasurer and Kenneth Hayne in which the Treasurer looked for all the world like a naughty kid cosying up to Santa, hoping Santa will smile on him, when he knows deep down he's spent a year being very, very bad. The fact is that the Liberals never wanted FOFA. They never wanted a royal commission. And now, in the House Standing Committee on Economics, of which I'm the deputy chair, they are trying to remove the twice yearly scrutiny of bank CEOs. Right now, bank CEOs turn up for 90 minutes every six months. The Liberals think that's too much scrutiny, and they're aiming to try and reduce it. If you want to know what the Liberals really think about the Hayne royal commission, don't listen to what the Treasurer says; listen to what people like the member for Goldstein, Tim Wilson, Chair of the House Standing Committee on Economics, says. He said in the House Economics Committee on 29 July:
I just find it very frustrating that a lawyer hands down a tablet that's equated to the Sermon on the Mount on the future direction of an industry, and then we can't challenge or contest whether it was actually right or whether the outcomes—if we implemented what it recommended, the lawyer's interpretation—would be in the best interests of the country—
That's the member for Goldstein. Then there's the member for Mackellar, Jason Falinski, who goes further, saying:
… the Hayne royal commission was deficient. It was deficient in its inquiry; let this chamber be in no doubt.
That was him on 26 May. On 29 July, the member for McKellar said in the House Economics Committee:
I think it is clear that this committee should recommend to the parliament that many of the remaining Hayne royal commission recommendations will do nothing more than harm and damage to ordinary Australian consumers.
So they had that brief moment of wanting to look like they supported the Hayne royal commission. But now they are back to their old tricks, standing up for the financial sector, standing against the interests of consumers.
The fact is that this bill will enjoy bipartisan support. The bill reflects changes which have taken place in FASEA, an organisation set up by the Liberals in 2019, which has had three CEOs in two years and is now being disbanded. Labor believes we need more consumer voices. In a House Economics Committee hearing recently we heard from the Consumer Action Law Centre's Gerard Brody and Cat Newton, who spoke eloquently about the importance of the consumer voice in ensuring that we have less wrongdoing from the financial sector.
All of this illustrates the problems of transparency, problems which were clearly apparent in the JobKeeper program, which saw some $13 billion being paid to firms with rising earnings, and problems which could well arise with the business payments that have been supported by both sides of the House to deal with the Sydney lockdown. In my view, if we're handing out money to businesses, then we should learn the lessons of JobKeeper and we should have a public register whereby every firm with a turnover above $100 million has their details published. If you're a firm turning over more than $100 million and you're getting government handouts to support you through the COVID pandemic, then the Australian public should know about it. I move:
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House note the Government has:
(1) failed to effectively deliver professional standards reform in the financial advice sector;
(2) been too slow to implement the findings of the Hayne Royal Commission;
(3) established and then shut down the failed Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority;
(4) failed to adequately protect consumers; and
(5) caused uncertainty and unnecessary costs for thousands of financial advisers across Australia".