On Tuesday (2 October), Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced that the Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Clare O’Neil, would travel to cities and towns around Australia that had not been visited by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry to hold a series of roundtables with victims.
The move, which was announced following the release of the commission’s interim report, aims to highlight more cases of misconduct, with Mr Shorten outlining that despite more than 9,300 submissions being sent to the commission, the hearings have so far only heard from 27 customers.
Speaking of the decision, Mr Shorten said: “These roundtables will give victims a crucial opportunity to share their stories and consider options for reform to ensure that the shocking misconduct exposed by the royal commission is stamped out.”
Mr Shorten continued: “All of the hearings of the commission have been in just three capital cities; regional and rural customers have not had a sufficient chance to have their say in this process.
“Misconduct in the financial services sector is a national issue, and Australians across the country deserve their chance to be heard.”
The Opposition Leader said that the Labor Party “wants victims to have a seat at the table when the royal commission considers what reforms are required to clean up this sector.”
The announcement has been dismissed by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Speaking to Sky News about the move, the Treasurer censured Mr Shorten for “threatening the independence, the authority of our royal commission”.
Mr Frydenberg said: “Firstly, we’ve had 9,000+ submissions and the commissioner has said they’ve all been read and he’s asked for further submissions. And if you had read through the 1,000-page report or anyone had read through the 1,000-page report from the commissioner, they’d be left in no doubt that this is a very rigorous, professional, considered, forensic process that he’s going through.
“Now, Bill Shorten first thought that he knew better than the royal commissioner saying there must be an extension of time, when the royal commissioner has yet to ask for it. Now he thinks he is the royal commissioner by conducting his own hearings and running a parallel process around the country.
“I mean, you cannot be serious. He is threatening the independence, the authority of our royal commission.”
While Mr Frydenberg said that the “very considered” interim report had been “scathing in its assessment of the culture, compliance in the banking sector”, he said that the government would be “taking the necessary action to restore the public’s confidence and trust in our financial system so that they get the products and services they deserve”.
When asked whether the government would extend the commission further, should Commissioner Hayne ask for one, the Treasurer said: “If he asks for more time, he has got it”.
[Related: Regulators ‘have a case to answer’]
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.