Senate debates

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (Banking Measures No. 1) Bill 2017; Second Reading

9:37 am

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to continue my remarks on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Banking Measures No. 1) Bill. When I was concluding my remarks previously I was speaking about the legislative undertakings of the Labor government and the FOFA reforms which were undertaken under the leadership of Mr Shorten, who, I understand, joined us in the chamber here to recognise the ascendancy to the Senate of Senator Keneally, who is a great New South Wales woman that I'm glad to have with me, and I'm sure she will be interested in supporting adequate banking protection for ordinary people as well.

Returning to my comments around ASIC, we know that, according to the latest numbers from ASIC, there were 300,000 customer accounts affected by concerns regarding financial services, with amounts of fees improperly charged for underservicing but still sending out the bills of over $200 million excluding interest. ASIC has stated that FOFA requirements that were vehemently opposed by those opposite—namely, the requirement customers periodically opt in to the advice relationship and the requirement that advisers provide annual fee disclosure statements to all clients, including existing clients—helped to bring to light this massive fees-for-no-service scandal.

In government those opposite made massive cuts to ASIC and massive cuts to the capability of the corporate regulator and have given a massive free pass to corporate misconduct. They only moved to restore funding to ASIC when Labor began calling for a royal commission. Those opposite have a record of giving free passes to the financial sector, thereby enhancing the misconduct at every turn. That record continued with their stubborn refusal to initiate a banking royal commission.

Labor will support this bill, as I've indicated a number of times during my contribution to this debate. We are particularly pleased that this government has finally, after years of delay, introduced changes to credit cards, recommended by a Labor-led Senate inquiry back in 2015. We welcome other measures in this bill, including giving the right to use the word 'bank' to smaller ADIs, including credit unions and building societies. For Australians whose literacy around finance helps them understand what a bank is, I think that this will be a significant change and improvement in their access to services, particularly in some of the regional communities across Australia.

However, we note that this bill comes from a government that's really not fair dinkum about consumer protection in the financial services sector. It has come, begrudgingly, from a government that will stand up for the big end of town over ordinary Australians, every day. It has to be, and has been in this case, dragged kicking and screaming to do otherwise, whether it is in relation to something as simple as overdue charges to credit card regulations or something as significant as a much needed royal commission into the banks.

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