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Treasury still vague on Better Advice detail

Advisers are still in the dark about exactly how ASIC’s disciplinary body will work and what matters will go on their permanent record, after Treasury conceded the details of the Better Advice bill won’t be ready in time for Parliament to vote on.

Treasury officials were grilled about the timing of regulations meant to set out important details of the bill – which were introduced to Parliament at the end of the June sitting in a hearing of the Senate economics committee last week.

Assistant secretary of Treasury’s financial systems division, Mohita Zaheed, said the department was “working through issues highlighted during the submission process” in developing regulations to accompany the bill.

“We are working through those issues ... the exact timing is a matter for government, but we are conscious that the regime kicks in on 1 January 2022, therefore we are working to progress those quickly,” Ms Zaheed said.

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“We will be consulting on getting the policy calibration right to ensure the right matters are being referred to the FSCP and registered on the adviser register, but I wouldn’t be expecting regulations to be drafted in the next two weeks.”

The bill has been criticised by industry associations for not being specific on the levels of breach that would require ASIC’s Financial Services and Credit Panel, which has been tasked with disciplinary monitoring of advisers, to be convened.

Ms Zaheed confirmed that these details would be addressed in the regulations, as well as prescribing which matters would be permanently recorded on ASIC’s adviser register, but insisted the bill was “a fully functioning piece of legislation in its current form”.

With the new legislation due to be voted on when parliament resumes in early August, independent senator Rex Patrick said the government was effectively “asking the Senate to buy the car that doesn’t have the brakes fitted” by not releasing key details of the bill before a vote.

“Reports from the [Senate] committee on delegated legislation have been critical of the government for using delegated legislation where it shouldn’t have been [used], and asking Parliament to pass bills without proper visibility as to those regulations,” Mr Patrick said.

Mr Patrick warned he would “likely vote against” the legislation if it didn’t contain the proper detail, and questioned why Treasury had also not supplied a regulatory impact statement for the bill, following speculation that costs to convene the panel for minor matters could see a further blowout in supervisory expenses for the advice sector.

“The explanatory memorandum outlines that the bill is compliant with the requirements of the Office of Best Practice Regulations – this was a recommendation of the royal commission, and the work done by Hayne has been certified to meet the requirements of the OBPR,” Ms Zaheed said.

“The cost to business and thinking through what impost it has on industry has been a key driver in the changes from what was exposed to what the bill looks like now, including providing more discretion to ASIC to triage matters. 

“Those considerations are front and centre and will be a core part of the thinking behind when the regulations are drafted and the processes taken in that.”

Treasury still vague on Better Advice detail
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