20 March 2017
Speech - #2017009, 2017

Video message to the ASIC annual forum

Check against delivery

Hello to everyone in Sydney.

Welcome to the 2017 ASIC Annual Forum.

Unfortunately I can’t be there with you in person.

But I absolutely support the Forum’s focus on the future.

It’s a prudent and sensible theme.

There are new dimensions of ‘regtech’, big data and cyber security to explore.

There are also significant consumer issues to tackle, including the need to improve the culture within financial firms.

In fact, most of the topics that will be discussed at this Forum mirror the long-term challenges set out in ASIC’s corporate plan.

These challenges go to investor and consumer trust, digital disruption and cyber resilience.

The challenges also cover structural change, complexity and globalisation in our financial system.

It’s quite a formidable list, but that’s why this Forum is so important.

These challenges aren’t just for our regulator or for government to address.

They are long-term challenges for the financial services industry and for everyone who participates in our financial system.

Most importantly, they are challenges that require immediate attention.

The Government’s position is quite straightforward.

We need to ensure the strength and stability of our markets and financial system.

We need to ensure our regulatory system remains the benchmark for the rest of the world.

At the same time, we need to make sure our corporate regulator has the tools it needs to administer the corporate and financial services law.

We have to ensure our companies and financial firms live up to community expectations and treat their customers and clients fairly and ethically.

On that front, after conducting a Capability Review of ASIC, we strengthened the Regulator’s resources, with a $121 million funding package.

This funding package will be directed towards enhanced surveillance and enforcement activities, to ensure that ASIC is well placed to proactively combat misconduct in the financial services industry.

We also need to ensure consumers get access to justice in a timely manner without the need for ASIC to intervene.

And that’s why we tasked an eminent panel chaired by Professor Ian Ramsay, with Julie Abramson and Alan Kirkland, to review the current external dispute framework and provide recommendations for improvement.

Specifically, to allow a one-stop-shop for consumers to get access to justice in a timely manner, independent review, and binding compensation payments

We look forward to receiving the Panel’s final report on the one-stop-shop shortly.

The Government has also recently settled the terms of reference for, and appointed the members of, an expert Taskforce to review ASIC’s powers and enforcement toolkit.

The Taskforce will consider the breach reporting framework, ASIC’s role in relation to industry codes of conduct, the adequacy of civil and criminal penalties and ASIC’s information gathering powers.

The Taskforce will report to Government later this year.

I’d also like to mention the Government’s plans in relation to those who blow the whistle on corporate misconduct.

Now we all know that corporate crime can be difficult to detect and protection for whistle-blowers is an important way to lift the lid on both tax fraud and corporate misconduct.

The Government recently announced, as part of the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, a commitment to review and consult on a new whistle-blower protection regime in the tax area, and to improve the whistle-blower protection regime in the Corporations Act.

We want to ensure the regulatory settings are right to encourage whistle-blowers to come forward, without fear of recrimination.

Finally, I’d like to mention another initiative that the Government is very committed to – financial literacy.

Financial literacy is about educating the next generation to understand the plethora of complex financial products and services that are available to them.

ASIC provides a range of financial literacy resources for both primary and secondary teachers that align with the Australian curriculum. Since 2012, more than 50 per cent of schools across Australia have engaged with ASIC's MoneySmart Teaching program.

I think these initiatives are a good note to finish on.

All the best for the next couple of days as you look to the horizon.