The financial planning industry has been accused of lobbying against the best interests of consumers by the independent MP who brought the Gillard government to power.
In a debate over financial services regulation that consumed federal parliament yesterday, independent Member for Lyne Rob Oakeshott spoke in support of the Bill seeking to amend the Tax Agent Services Act to bring financial advisers under additional registration burdens.
Oakeshott took aim at the Financial Services Council (FSC) and Financial Planning Association (FPA), accusing the Coalition of cow-towing to the organised lobbying efforts of the two industry bodies.
“What happened? Who has folded?” the MP rhetorically asked parliament, following the vote which saw the Bill referred for further review.
“I would hope that a lobbying campaign run by [FSC chief executive] John Brogden and [FPA chief executive] Mark Rantall did not get in the way of a consumer protection policy that has been in gestation for twenty years,” he said.
“I know there are financial planners out there popping the champagne, but I would hope this is just buying a window of time and not the chamber closing the door [on this Bill],” he added.
The crossbencher said he was satisfied the Bill was in the best interests of consumers and was a core part of the government’s broader Future of Financial Advice agenda – of which he is a vocal supporter.
He said he had been in communication with accounting industry bodies, as well as government figures, both of whom had convinced him of the merits of amending TASA.
As one of seven crossbenchers in the current parliament, Oakeshott will ultimately play a crucial role in the final vote on the Bill, should it be heard before the September election or retain his powerful position in the next parliament.
Assistant treasurer David Bradbury said that while “many financial planners may do good work in their communities”, consumer protection must come first, indicating the government’s commitment to the amendments.
“Somebody needs to come into this place and stand up for consumers,” he said.
Meanwhile, accounting bodies CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia issued a joint statement arguing that the referral of the Bill to committee review “jeopardises much-needed consumer protections”.
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