SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
STEPHEN JONES MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR WHITLAM
The Liberal-dominated Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services has recklessly endorsed sweeping and permanent changes to Australia’s continuous disclosure laws and Josh Frydenberg’s dangerously ill-conceived new regulations on litigation funders.
Like the Morrison Government, Liberal members of the Committee have ignored the advice of the Department of the Treasury that Josh Frydenberg’s new regulations will increase costs for plaintiffs and adversely impact the ability of Australians to access the justice system.
As Labor members of the Committee say in their minority report, Mr Frydenberg’s new regulations are a “textbook example of ill-judged regulations” and represent “a direct attack on public interest litigation and access to justice in Australia”.
Not even ASIC can explain how those regulations are supposed to work. And, even worse, the corporate regulator has admitted that the Treasurer’s new regulations are so ill-conceived that it is literally impossible for many funded class actions to comply with them.
Liberal members ignored all of this evidence and, despite admitting that the regulations are not fit-for-purpose, gave the Treasurer’s incompetence a tick of approval.
Like the Morrison Government, Liberal members of the Committee have also ignored the advice of ASIC that Josh Frydenberg’s “temporary” changes to continuous disclosure laws could undermine Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest.
By recommending that the Treasurer’s changes to continuous disclosure laws be made permanent, Liberal members have also gone well beyond the inquiry’s terms of reference – which did not refer to those laws at all.
As Labor members of the Committee say in their minority report, Australia’s continuous disclosure regime is too important to be treated like an ideological plaything.
Parliamentary committees should not be in the business of endorsing incompetent and irrational decision-making by members of the executive branch. That is what Liberal members of the Committee have done in this report.
Inadvertently, Liberal members have also highlighted the incompetence of the Morrison Government by making 29 other recommendations that largely just repeat what the Australian Law Reform Commission told the Government two years ago – in a report that the Government has ignored ever since.
A number of the Liberal members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services like to style themselves as independent thinkers and “modern Liberals”. But they have revealed themselves to be little more than unquestioning followers of an incompetent Treasurer who has used the cover of a global pandemic to undermine access to justice for ordinary Australians.