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Banking regulators should be sacked, Tony Abbott says

Former prime minister Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP Former prime minister Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP

Former prime minister Tony Abbott says Australia's corporate regulators should be sacked and replaced with "more vigilant" people after a string of damning revelations from the banking royal commission.

Mr Abbott's hardline reaction comes amid growing calls for compensation for victims of bank misconduct and after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conceded the government could have avoided "political grief" it had established the royal commission sooner.

The former Liberal leader has become the latest critic to turn up the heat on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which has faced questions over an apparent failure to detect and punish the conduct now being exposed by Kenneth Hayne's inquiry.

As much as 5 per cent of advice provided by ANZ was unlikely to be in best interest of the client, according to reports provided to ANZ executives uncovered by the Hayne Royal Commission.

"What were the regulators doing to allow all this to be happening? And that's the thing that keeps occurring to me every time I read fresh revelations." Mr Abbott told 2GB radio on Monday.

"My fear is that at the end of this royal commission, we will have yet another level of regulation imposed on the banks when, frankly, what should happen is, I suspect, all the existing regulators should be sacked and people who are much more vigilant and much less complacent go in their place."

The Abbott government's 2014 budget set in motion $120 million of cuts to ASIC's funding over four years, leading to the loss of more than 200 staff. At the time, the government emphasised a greater role for self-regulation instead of state intervention.

Former ASIC chair Greg Medcraft was vocal in his criticism of the budget cuts and pushing for tougher penalties for misconduct.

In 2016, the Turnbull government restored the funding and has also boosted the regulator's powers.

The strengthening of ASIC was one of the actions Mr Turnbull pointed to on Monday when asked if the government had failed to respond adequately to misconduct in the financial sector.

The Prime Minister said the government has made a "political" mistake in delaying the inquiry.

“I understand when you’re writing the political criticism, you say the government would have had less political grief if it had set up a royal commission two years ago – you’re right, clearly, with the benefit of hindsight,” he said at a press conference.

“Having said that, you have to ask yourself, would we be able to get all the reforms done?”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who backed a royal commission in April 2016, has argued the government should apologise to victims of misconduct for resisting the commission.

"Along with many Australians, I can’t help but wonder how many customers were ripped off by this kind of misconduct in the two years it took the government to relent and agree to Labor’s calls for a royal commission," Mr Shorten wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister on Sunday.

"How many Australians continued to be hit with 'fees for no service' in the two years the government continued to protect the banking industry from a royal commission?"

Last week, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer announced tougher penalties for misconduct, including fines of up to $210 million.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said the increased penalties were essential to "change the equation" and provider a greater deterrence.

"Let's say you actually have to factor in hundreds of millions of dollars of fines to what you're doing every day so it actually does matter to the bottom line if you're caught breaching the act," Mr Sims told ABC radio on Monday.

This article was first published by https://www.smh.com.au/
Author: Fergus Hunter - Fergus Hunter is a political reporter for Fairfax Media, based in Parliament House.
Last modified onMonday, 23 April 2018 21:34

1 comment

  • Stephen
    Stephen Wednesday, 25 April 2018 05:56 Comment Link

    I find it incredible that a former PM and cabinet minister also shadow cabinet minister NOW joins the bandwagon of calling for criminal proceedings to come from the RC. He's known of their behaviour and condoned it for years. There's no credibility in the man. If he was PM he would have fought harder than Turnbull to stave off a RC. Our political system needs to be reviewed and overhauled. Senate inquiries into ASIC, APRA ACCC and the Federal Police. How is it Federal Police never investiged the crimes, they assisted land/property repossessions for the banks!!!

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