Assistant Treasurer grilled about FoFA conflicts on news show

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Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, was bombarded with heavy questioning on a late night news show about the real influences behind his proposed FoFA amendments.

In an interview with Emma Alberici on ABC’s Lateline, Sinodinos was forced to defend his recent role as the senior executive at National Australia Bank.

Alberici made the reference after suggesting that the senator faced pressure from banks to roll back some of the FoFA legislation to allow for some commissions.

The FoFA amendments propose a lifting of the ban on general commissions, despite a trend away from this type of remuneration and towards pay-for-service from the majority of advisers.

“I'm interested to know how much your time [at National Australia Bank] influenced your decision to wind back these reforms?” Alberici asked.

“Everything you do in life is influenced by the experiences you bring to the table”, conceded Sinodinos, adding that he’s also been a senior Treasury officer, and a senior chief of staff to a prime minister.

Alberici’s questioning focused on the reversal to allow commissions and other sorts of remuneration, and the impact that it could have on the reputation of financial services.

Charging for fee-for-service was much more in line with professions such as accountants and lawyers, she said.

“By allowing all these other sorts of remunerations, whether it be holidays or kickbacks or commissions or other inducements, won't there always be that question of is this person in front of me actually working in my best interest?”

Sinodinos replied that the onus is on the adviser to provide answers to those questions honestly and correctly. He also said that the business model for lawyers and barristers is a different one, because most are not part of a larger group.

“The complication I've got as a regulator is that I'm trying to create a level playing field between different types of business models. That's the essence of the issue,” he said. “I can only go at that by trying to create a level playing field, get as much transparency as possible and then let the client decide.”

The interview ended with Alberici grilling the senator about why the findings of the Commission of Audit have yet to be made public, despite the government holding them for several weeks.

The decision whether or not to release the findings was one for “my betters”, said Sinodinos. He refused to reveal whether or not it would be released before the WA senate election.

The Assistant Treasurer also wouldn’t be drawn as to whether he personally thought the contents of the audit should be made public.

“What should happen is a judgment made by my colleagues who are senior to me and who I love very much,” he said.
 
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