7 August 2018
Transcript - #2018046, 2018

In the role of: Minister for Revenue and Financial Services [19 July 2016 - 28 August 2018]

Interview with Peter Ryan, ABC AM

Subjects: Turnbull Government expands ASIC’s armoury, Banking Royal Commission

ABC PRESENTER:

The corporate cop is about to get tough new powers to embed its enforcement staff in the major banks and wealth manager AMP as part of an expanded armoury to fight white-collar crime. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission will have its budget boosted by more than $70 million as it pushes back against fallout from the banking Royal Commission that it's been asleep at the wheel in the fight against corporate misconduct. Our Senior Business Correspondent, Peter Ryan, has been speaking with the Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well the initiatives that we have announced today will give ASIC the powers to be able to better combat corporate misconduct like never before. So they'll have dedicated staff in these institutions to be able to monitor governance and compliance for periods of time.

PETER RYAN:

What sort of enforcement team will ASIC have? How many ASIC staff could be in any particular bank at any given time?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well look that's obviously a question for ASIC but we expect them, as a corporate regulator, to prevent harm to consumers and where harm has occurred to be able to make sure that they can come down hard on those that are doing the wrong thing.

PETER RYAN:

What parts of banks are you talking about – high up in management at the board level or further down in the middle management?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well this will give them full flexibility to be in any part of those institutions and certainly, without pre-empting the findings of the Royal Commission, we want to make sure that we have a conduct regulator that is best able to proactively ensure that harm doesn't occur to consumers and that we can rebuild consumer trust.

PETER RYAN:

Just on the Royal Commission we're hearing quite disturbing revelations almost every day, in particular this week in relation to superannuation. But just how badly have those revelations damaged the credibility and integrity of a regulator like ASIC?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I don't want to get in to a commentary around the Royal Commission. But what I would say is that the Government has recognised that we need a very tough cop on the beat in ASIC. We need to make sure that they have got the resources, the leadership they need and the powers to be able to go after corporate misconduct and that they need to be able to triage appropriately.

PETER RYAN:

Would you have announced these new measures without the pressure and glare from the Royal Commission which you rejected right up until it was called late last year?

KELLY O'DWYER:

We have been, certainly, on a journey to ensure that our regulator is strong and the announcement today does just that.

PETER RYAN:

Now embedding ASIC staff into the major banks and AMP is one thing but would you consider greater powers such as telephone taps?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Obviously all of the usual investigative tools exist and there are, appropriately, measures that allow for oversight of that, that exists today, and in appropriate ways the regulator can access the information it needs. Certainly we have always said that we are open to providing the regulator with the tools it needs to do its job.

PETER RYAN:

Now banks have very strong legal departments and corporate affairs divisions that might find ways around the ASIC surveillance through embedding staff. Are you expecting full cooperation from the banks?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I do and this is one way that we can ensure the conduct regulator has the information it needs to do its job and to be tough cop on the beat.

PETER RYAN:

Have you consulted with the banks given that this is quite a significant move in the midst of a Royal Commission – would this come as a surprise to them?

KELLY O'DWYER:

The new Chairman – I think it's pretty clear that he is taking a very direct new strategic direction when it comes to enforcement.

PETER RYAN:

But you're not expecting any major pushback from the banks?

KELLY O'DWYER:

That's a question you'll need to put to them directly but I don't anticipate that anyone would have a problem with ensuring that our regulator can do its job.

ABC PRESENTER:

The Financial Services Minister, Kelly O'Dwyer, speaking to our Senior Business Correspondent, Peter Ryan.