Labor backflips on royal commission

Opposition senators voted against a motion to hold a "royal commission into misconduct in the financial services sector" yesterday, despite previously calling for a judicial inquiry.

A motion urging the Abbott government to commence a royal commission was lodged in the Senate yesterday by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, but failed to garner the support of either major party.

Fourteen senators voted in favour of the motion, including 10 Greens and independent crossbenchers Jacquie Lambie, Glenn Lazarus and Nick Xenophon.

Nationals senator John Williams, a longstanding critic of vertical integration and supporter of whistleblowers in the financial services industry, crossed the floor to vote in favour of the motion, despite the Coalition party room’s strong opposition to the move.  

Senator Whish-Wilson pointed the finger squarely at his Labor colleagues, a number of whom have previously voiced support for a royal commission, including former NSW ALP general secretary Sam Dastyari.

“I am disappointed that Labor and the government did not support this call. The case is there for a Royal Commission: the public interest test is strong,” he said in a statement following the vote.

“There is more need for a Royal Commission now than there was in June almost exactly one year ago, when the ASIC report was released," the senator added, singling out IOOF and Commonwealth Bank incidents as evidence. 

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen – a former financial services minister  explained Labor’s decision via a statement issued yesterday in which he said the current inquiries examining the industry were sufficient to address conflicts of interest.

“Labor will not be supporting this motion at this time,” Mr Bowen said.

“Labor is considering the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into the Performance of ASIC and notes the ongoing work of it successor, the inquiry into Scrutiny of Financial Advice.

“Labor is the only party who can be trusted to deal with financial advice regulation. FOFA is just beginning to take effect now and needs to be bedded down and allowed to work,” he added, pointing to the Coalition’s support for amendments to FOFA.

The vote comes despite Senator Williams previously telling ifa support for a royal commission was growing among Coalition MPs.

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