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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8198


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (18:01): Thank you, Acting Deputy President. Why is it the role of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to restore trust in the Australian banking sector? Why is it the regulator's role to restore trust by allowing an unenforceable code in Australian law to pass into fake regulation? How is that restoring trust? As I explained, Senator Canavan, this is not covered by the Competition and Consumer Act. I even read out the words of the royal commissioner himself. He said that, while there may be some contract law implications, it is not covered by the laws and legislation of this parliament. How is it restoring confidence to rubberstamp and give the seal of approval to the banks at this point in time, before the royal commission has even delivered its final report?

Of course the banks want to restore trust, and I genuinely hope that the Australian people's trust in the banks is restored. But let me say to senators: that's going to come from proper regulation and it's going to come from structural reform in the Australian banking sector and the financial services sector. I have outlined a number of reforms that the Greens believe need to happen, and the first thing I'd like to do is take the mandate for financial securities off ASIC and give it to the ACCC. We know the history. The ACCC had this mandate taken off them when a special regulator was set up for the financial services industry. I've read out in previous speeches that the people involved in that structural reform have now looked back and said: 'We made a mistake. It should have stayed with the ACCC.' I've got no problems with ASIC and their current resourcing or with the people at ASIC regulating the wholesale side of the market, but the retail side of financial services should be regulated by the ACCC.

There are a number of people who are supporting the Greens' call for the ACCC to regulate this industry. The ACCC have shown that they are prepared to take on companies—they have shown that. The problem with ASIC is that they have a conflicted mandate in this country. On the one hand, they have to factor into their decisions the stability, efficiency and functioning of the financial system; on the other hand, they have to protect consumers of financial services and financial products. That is why you and I, Mr Acting Deputy President Williams, have sat through countless inquiries listening to evidence about enforceable undertakings rather than strong action on white-collar crime. That's why we've had to endure that. I don't hold ASIC responsible for that; they've had a conflicted mandate from the start. Even when ASIC was set up, the point was raised that it was a specialist regulator set up for a specialist sector. Why does financial services have its own regulator? Who else does? ACCC covers everyone else. This was set up and people said: 'If you do that, you know what the risk is? The risk is that your regulator will become captured by the industry.' This is not me saying this; this is what has come out of the royal commission—a weak regulator who has failed to do their job and who has been captured by the industry. Once again, I don't blame people at ASIC for this. They have a conflicted mandate, not to mention all of the resourcing issues they've had over the years. But it is time for structural reforms.

Senator Canavan has come in here today to say that ASIC's essential rubberstamping of this fake regulation that isn't covered by Australian law is somehow going to restore the Australian people's trust in the banks. It isn't. It is the royal commission's job now to restore trust. Yes, it is ASIC's job to step up and take real action. But I am telling you that this is not real action—a voluntary code of conduct unenforceable by Australian law. It's a code written by the banks for the banks that isn't even complete. I notice that Labor didn't even address this issue. The fake regulation that we have before us doesn't even address the updated voluntary code of conduct which has since been changed. I went through the detail a second ago. It has since been changed to make sure banks can't take fees for service from dead people. That is not even in this regulation. I would like to see Senator Canavan address that.

I will just stress one more time that this is an important juncture in history for us to make substantive change, to be bold and to make sure that we can restore trust in the banking sector, not just for customers but also for the financial system, for the banks themselves and for their shareholders and other stakeholders in this debate. There is no way this voluntary code of conduct, which is not enforceable by law, written by the banks today, is going to restore the Australian people's faith in the banks.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1, standing in the name of Senator Whish-Wilson, be agreed to.