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Monday, 10 February 2020
Page: 590

Senator BRAGG (New South Wales) (20:23): I rise tonight to conclude my remarks in relation to the Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Measures No. 2) Bill 2019—the fintech bill. I guess the reason we're doing this is that we are deeply committed to more Australian jobs and to giving Australian consumers more choice. Ultimately, that is the objective of everything in this fintech space.

Today there is some very good news that, as reported by TheAustralian Financial Review, the PitchBook, or KPMG, report has announced that we have delivered a record $1.7 billion in investment into start-ups to date, which is against the trend in our own region, where we've actually seen a reduction of investment into start-ups and small businesses. In the last year, you've seen significant new companies like Airwallex and Canva emerge. These are real people with real ideas, creating real jobs which are giving consumers and small businesses new choice when it comes to doing business here in Australia. So, before you have a technical discussion about why you want to have a particular bill or a particular change to a bill, it's always worth remembering why we're doing it, and we're doing it because we want more jobs in this country and we want consumers to have a better choice.

The Hayne royal commission into financial services showed that the incumbents aren't doing a very good job, and that is why it is very important to foster and grow this fintech bridge, because, if people want more choice and more competition, this is the way to deliver innovation in this space. So one of the common threads of this coalition government over many years has been a commitment to innovation, a commitment to more consumer choice and a commitment that government will foster new ideas. We won't get into the market ourselves, because we believe in the market, but we want to make sure that the market can bring new ideas into this country.

The sandbox which was introduced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda has been considered to be underused, I would have to say. What we are now seeking to do is to make it more user friendly and more flexible. This is a dynamic approach which governments across the board should try to do more of. We've introduced a flexible scheme, the sandbox. It is not sufficiently flexible, so we are making it more flexible so more organisations can try it in that safe regulatory environment. Remember, this is about more jobs and more consumer choice. If you don't have a sandbox and these sorts of measures, frankly, these sorts of ideas will very quickly disappear abroad. Labour and capital are mobile, so, unless you're competitive and dynamic in responding to what the market is asking for, you can kiss goodbye to these jobs.

This dynamic approach is reflected in this bill. Labor have an amendment where they want to basically wind the clock back and make it much more rigid. The whole point of accountability in this space is very important; I grant the Senate that. I've always been of the view that we elect people into these chambers, and ultimately people are selected to go into the ministry, to make policy for the country. We should hold people to account by virtue of their legislation and the regulations they put their names to. We shouldn't be outsourcing policymaking to regulators. One of the concerning things I read in the Fin Review again today was that, potentially, regulators would be able to make policy. Regulators are there to enforce the law. Again, drawing on the Hayne royal commission, we know that the regulators haven't always done a good job of enforcing the law, so I think it's critical that we get regulators focused on enforcing the law, whether it be in relation to a large bank or a fintech—I know fintechs are very close to Senator Whish-Wilson's heart—or all of the above.

Senator Whish-Wilson: I don't have a heart!

Senator BRAGG: I know you have no heart! The changes in this bill give the parliament, the government and the market the flexibility that is being asked for without ducking accountability, because, of course, a regulation can be disallowed, and financial services regulations have regularly been disallowed in previous years. So the answer here is more flexibility whilst maintaining the accountability that we all expect as Australians. What we don't want to see is a hard-coded prehistoric approach where everything is written into the law, which requires us then to come through these two chambers and spend all this time trying to change it. So regulations deliver flexibility without undermining accountability. On the other extreme, of course, you have an approach where you let the regulator set the policy, in effect putting everyone here out of work. If they're making the policy then what are we doing?

With that in mind, I want to remind the Senate that if people feel strongly about the findings of the royal commission—and they should—the pathway to more competition, more choice and ultimately more jobs in Australia is to have a flexible, dynamic approach which welcomes investment into the financial sector, especially into this fintech and start-up area.