The government has introduced greater criminal and civil penalties for corporate and financial misconduct after the royal commission into the banking and finance industries heard details of illegal fee charging and unethical practices by lending institutions. The commission heard yesterday that Commonwealth Bank of Australia subsidiary Count Financial charged clients up to 10 years after they had died, and from Westpac customers who lost their life savings after receiving poor financial advice. CBA representative Marianne Perkovic was accused by senior counsel assisting the commission, Michael Hodge QC, of “dissembling” and failing to answer questions, while commissioner Kenneth Hayne also criticised Perkovic’s answers as insufficient and directed her to listen to a question again. Financial services minister Kelly O’Dwyer said the reforms, including longer jail time for lying to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and larger fines for corporations, were “ a credible deterrent to unacceptable misconduct”. Nationals MPs, meanwhile, are considering forcibly separating major banks from their financial services subsidiaries, with NSW senator John Williams saying “I think the sooner that’s broken up, the better”. Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce tweeted “In the past I argued against a Royal Commission into banking. I was wrong. What I have heard is so far is beyond disturbing.”
Energy minister Josh Frydenberg has urged states and territories to support the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee at a Council of Australian Governments meeting today. Energy ministers will gather in Melbourne to decide the fate of the NEG, with Labor states demanding a higher renewable energy target and protections for non-energy sectors. While business and industry groups have urged governments to agree to the NEG, environmental organisations are opposing the plan as too weak. GetUp! energy campaigns director Miriam Lyons said ($) the NEG “will literally do nothing, in terms of climate change, of investment in energy generation capacity”.
Acting prime minister Michael McCormack has said he has no view “one way or the other” on gay conversion therapy. Speaking on Thursday at the National Press Club in his first major speech since he was elevated to deputy prime minister, McCormack said the issue was “not something that I have really explored”. Government ministers publicly grappled with the issue this week after a Victorian Young Liberals branch proposed a motion allowing doctors to “offer counselling out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning”. The Australian Medical Association said it “unequivocally condemns” conversion therapy, quoting a 2013 World Medical Association statement saying such treatments “have no medical indication and represent a serious threat to the health and human rights of those so treated”. In February, McCormack distanced himself from newspaper editorials he wrote in 1993 calling homosexuality “sordid” and describing himself as “homophobic”.
And former Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg has re-emerged on Twitter as a self-described “geopolitical dilettante”. Quaedvlieg, who was sacked in March after a lengthy investigation found he helped his girlfriend get a job at Sydney Airport, began tweeting from @quaedvliegs shortly before his dismissal. BuzzFeed Australia has verified the account belongs to Quaedvlieg, who said he plans “to contribute to public policy discussions in more mainstream and long form media". Quaedvlieg has spoken out about governments using “fear of crime to infect its constituents”, labelled the British Commonwealth “a vestige of British imperialistic nostalgia”, and said people directing misogynist attacks against ABC journalist Leigh Sales were “craven types that stalk the Twittersphere”. Quaedvlieg also called BuzzFeed’s coverage “fair and balanced”.