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Banking royal commission: Josh Frydenberg to lead review

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Jonathan Ng Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Jonathan Ng

The government’s response to the banking royal commission and the landmark Productivity Commission review of superannuation will be spearheaded by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has taken the lion’s share of Treasury portfolio responsibilities from junior ministers Stuart Robert and Zed Seselja.

Mr Frydenberg’s confirmation yesterday that he would have primary oversight of the financial policy and its regulators, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, put to rest a week-and-a-half of confusion as to who would take responsibility for one of the nation’s most important industries.

In the fallout from the latest leadership coup in which Scott Morrison claimed the prime ministership, the role of Financial Services Minister — previously held by Kelly O’Dwyer, who has been moved on to jobs and industrial relations — was dissolved.

Into this vacuum stepped new Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert, who had told ABC radio the week after the leadership debacle that he would probably take tax, financial services and superannuation, before he slightly backtracked later in the week.

Meanwhile, Labor raised concerns about Mr Robert taking on the financial services portfolio and the oversight of ASIC.

In early 2016, Mr Robert resigned as Malcolm Turnbull’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Human Services over his links to mining company Nimrod Resources, which benefited from a 2014 deal signed in his presence in Beijing with Chinese state-controlled corporation China Metals. Mr Robert maintained he was in Beijing in a “private capacity” and not on official government business.

Opposition financial services spokeswoman Clare O’Neil said Mr Robert “has an atrocious record of misconduct” and that it was “deeply troubling” that he had been handed the day-to-day management of superannuation.

“Lawyers for the banking royal commission recently recommended two major banks face criminal charges over their treatment of superannuation customers. Stuart Robert is the last person who should be in charge of cleaning up this kind of misconduct given his own track record,” Ms O’Neil said.

Mr Robert, who yesterday was examining the 35 pieces of superannuation legislation still to progress through parliament, including the independent directors bill, rejected Ms O’Neils comments.

“The Labor Party says something is atrocious, and the Labor Party refers you to the AFP. Yet they don’t like to accept the independent umpire and the independent umpire said there’s nothing to see here,” Mr Robert said.

Although Ms O’Dywer held responsibility for ASIC and formulating superannuation policy, these have been taken over by Mr Frydenberg.

Mr Frydenberg, a former assistant treasurer in the Abbott government, has now taken responsibility for development of budget, economic and fiscal policy and taxation and superannuation policy.

He will also respond to Kenneth Hayne’s royal commission, which is due to produce an interim report this month and a final report by February. With superannuation policy, Mr Frydenberg will have to respond to the Productivity Commission’s review of the $2.7 trillion superannuation sector that is due to report by the end of the year.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Robert was given responsibility for “financial services and the day-to-day management of superannuation, competition and consumer policy” along with the fintech industry and taxation matters.

Although Mr Robert is not a cabinet member, he will sit on the budget’s Expenditure Review Committee. Mr Seselja will oversee the not-for-profit, charities and mutuals sector and housing.

This article was first published by
Last modified onWednesday, 05 September 2018 03:57

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