Treasurer not ‘sorry’ for blocking banking commission
"SORRY" was the hardest word for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to say today as he was grilled repeatedly over whether the government should apologise for delaying the banking royal commission.
"I'm focused on the future," was the Treasurer's response this morning after Commissioner Kenneth Hayne's "scathing" final report yesterday called for a massive shake-up of the banking and financial services sector with 76 recommendations.
It also identified 24 cases of misconduct for further investigation by financial watchdogs, which could result in civil and criminal charges.
But Mr Frydenberg refused to concede the government should apologise this morning for having to be dragged to the in-depth inquiry, while also saying he thought the Liberal Party should still be able to accept donations from financial institutions.
Labor also received political donations from banks, he said.
"My view ... is that the banks are important institutions and, as long as the laws are adhered to, they should be free to contribute to political parties of any particular persuasion," Mr Frydenberg told ABC News Breakfast.
Asked if he had any regrets about opposing the royal commission "so vigorously", Mr Frydenberg said: "Look, I'm focused on the future - and yesterday we announced that we're taking action on all 76 recommendations."
"What matters to your viewers ... and the people of Australia, is that trust is restored in our financial institutions, that they're held to account for misconduct and that the culture changes."
Asked later on Sky News "Are you sorry?", he said: "I absolutely understand the deep hurt that's being felt by people right across the economy and the community and what we have said is that in taking action on all 76 recommendations, we will get a better deal for Australian consumers. We are on the consumers' side and the banks must do better."
Pushed on whether the government could have handled calls for the inquiry better, he said: "I want to point out to you and your viewers that when we first came to government, we commissioned the financial systems inquiry by David Murray, and a number of those recommendations, we have implemented, which has been endorsed by Commissioner Hayne because they are working in the interests of consumers, including the banking executive accountability regime."
Meanwhile, Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh defended National Australia Bank chairman Ken Henry and chief executive Andrew Thorburn today after Commissioner Hayne singled them out in his final report for not learning the lessons of the past.
"I think that it's difficult to form a full view of someone's character on the basis of one interview but that's all that the Commission process allowed for," she told ABC News Breakfast.
She said she encountered both men on a regular basis and never found them to be resistant to reform.
"I think that people can be confident that ... these are people who understand the problem, are determined to fix it and have already put in place a number of remediation programs and are fully on board for the sorts of changes that have to come in the future," Ms Bligh said.