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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 197

Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (12:45): I want to talk about white-collar crime, which I have pursued in this place, basically, since day one. In 2009 I launched the inquiry into the liquidators industry. We went through the liquidators industry, where many wrongdoings and corruption were highlighted. One liquidator went to jail for six years with a non-parole period of three years and is now out. There were other wrongdoings there. It was a good report. We produced a unanimous bipartisan report, but, sadly, the Labor Party in government did absolutely nothing with the insolvency practitioners industry—nothing at all. They did not even introduce the recommendations. We got nowhere until this government came in, and now we have cleaned that industry up. Most importantly, come 1 January next year, liquidators doing a job liquidating a business can be sacked by a majority vote of the creditors. That is going to keep them right on their toes.

We had a situation where Stuart Ariff, who was jailed, was liquidating a business called CarLovers. It cost CarLovers—a Malaysian car wash company—$1.8 million, from memory, in legal fees to have their liquidator removed. From now on, that will cost nothing but a vote of the creditors. Liquidators should be working for the creditors, and I am very pleased to say that we have made great steps forward to clean the industry up.

In relation to ABCC, as I said in my previous speech in this place today, Labor and the Greens will not support cleaning up the building industry. Why? It is probably because of the huge donations that the unions, especially the CFMEU, make to those political parties. It is amazing that Senator Rhiannon always talks about doing the right thing here with donations, et cetera. Perhaps Senator Rhiannon would like to come into this chamber and give us a speech on the Greens and their donations from the CFMEU and other unions, and on why they will not support the cleaning up of the building industry.

In 2011 I launched an inquiry into banks here in Australia. It was a very good inquiry. It was amazing—we came across a lot of problems. I remember one very clearly: a bank manager had given a 30-year loan to a 97-year-old lady who was in an aged-care facility. I remember Senator Cameron saying in the inquiry: 'How old did you say she was, Senator Williams?' I said: 'Ninety-seven, Senator Cameron, and she's in an aged-care facility.' Senator Cameron's response was: 'It must be a bloody good aged-care facility!' A 30-year-loan was given to a 97-year-old lady! The investment, of course, went bad; it was a Ponzi scheme. We cleaned it up. I am not mentioning the bank; it was an institution. There were about 12 of those cases, and we cleaned them up. We made good steps to see that their processes are much more transparent and much more honest. I believe that bank manager is now facing criminal charges.

I, along with others in this place, launched an inquiry into ASIC. We brought out the wrongdoings in the financial planning industry. We saw the treatment of whistleblowers. We saw some 650,000 Australians written to to have their financial advice reviewed from Commonwealth Bank financial planning, from Macquarie Private Wealth and others.

In the very near future I am going to launch an inquiry into the life insurance industry. I am very annoyed about the program on Four Corners, with Fairfax and with my friend Adele Ferguson, about the treatment of people who would not have their life insurance paid, their TPD paid, and the crazy excuses these insurance companies use to avoid payment—especially in relation to one with an industry super fund, REST Industry Super fund. I have spoken to the boss, Mr Damian Hill, about a young fellow who, sadly, committed suicide at the age of 22, I think. The young fellow had life insurance with his superannuation. His policy was paid up, his premiums were paid up, but his estate was not paid because he did not have $1,200 in his superannuation—he only had $1,110. The policy was: we will not pay you unless you have $1,200 in your super. I asked: then why did you take the premium? Why did you take the person's money? Why did you give them the policy knowing you would not pay it under those conditions? I believe those conditions have now changed. That infuriates me, Madam Acting Deputy President O'Neill, and it probably infuriates you, as well, when you hear things like that. So I will be launching an inquiry into the life insurance industry as soon as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is re-established. I have the terms of reference drawn up. I hope that many in the chamber will support me.

What has the Labor Party done in relation to all of this corruption? Let me give you a few facts. The notable scandals and collapses within the financial services sector occurred under Labor's watch, when the Leader of the Opposition was the minister responsible for financial services. That is a fact. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, as the then minister responsible for financial services, neither initiated a royal commission into the banking sector nor took meaningful action against the banks. When the Murray inquiry came along—it was a promise by the Abbott government when we were elected in 2013—the Murray inquiry was opposed by Labor with the then Treasurer, Chris Bowen, stating:

The financial system is strong, well-regulated and well managed and I have not seen a case for a full-blown inquiry.

The Labor Party actually opposed the Murray inquiry. It is unbelievable that the Labor Party is now grandstanding about a royal commission when I pursued a royal commission into white-collar crime for years.

I am very pleased to see that we now have the Ramsay review to see that a proper tribunal is established where those who have been done over, or think they have been done over and treated badly, can seek justice; where it is not a case that they simply have to have so much money.

It is amazing to see that Senator Dastyari is in the headlines today:

High-profile New South Wales Labor senator Sam Dastyari is facing mounting calls to explain why a company with links to the Chinese government repaid a debt on his behalf. Sydney-based Top Education Institute paid the bill of around $1,600.

I agree with my colleague Senator Bernardi: a senator who owes a debt to the Commonwealth for mismanaging his electorate budget is now being bailed out by a company that is closely linked to the Chinese government—the director of it has very close links to the Chinese government. That is cause for a Senate inquiry, I agree. It was not long ago that Senator Dastyari was saying that we need to get right into white-collar crime. Perhaps a good look in the mirror might be my advice to Senator Dastyari.

On 24 June last year Senator Whish-Wilson moved a motion that called for a royal commission into misconduct within the financial services sector. I crossed the floor—I sat over there and voted with the Greens. Senator Conroy, Senator Dastyari—all those over there—Senator Polley and Senator Urquhart all sat there opposing an inquiry into the banking sector. They did not have the courage to stand up. Now of course they are holier than thou, saying: 'We've got to do this and do that.' I crossed the floor as I have done probably nine times before.

It is amazing that David Murray on 24 August in a report in the Australian newspaper said:

Over the past two years, industry super funds have paid more than $5.4 million to unions and the ACTU, with a handy portion flowing upstream to Labor.

This is incredible. When you are pursuing a royal commission, can you please add in white-collar crime and look at industry super funds, insurance payments and what they are doing? In 2014-15 construction industry fund CBUS gave $927,940 to the CFMEU. I wonder where that ended up—probably in the Labor Party coffers to help them with their election.

I will be moving amendments to Senator Wong's motion No. 12 today, to see that we get a proper inquiry into white-collar crime, not just the banks but those unregistered managed investment schemes, industry super funds and where their moneys flow, their superannuation, their life insurance and those who do not hold an Australian Financial Services licence. Let's clean the place right up through the financial sector, which I have pursued for seven years, then we may progress with a far more appropriate system where people can have total faith and confidence in this sector in Australia. At the moment, you are only half doing the job over there in the Labor Party. Do the job properly, do it once and do it right through the financial sector. Clean up the Ponzi schemes et cetera.