Abbott Cabinet adopts different approach to financial services

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has returned to a more conventional portfolio set-up for financial services and superannuation, with the appointment of an Assistant Treasurer and Parliamentary Secretary under the Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

This represents a move away from the structure established under the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments which specifically named a Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation as well as an Assistant Treasurer and a Parliamentary Secretary, albeit that both the latter positions fell outside the Cabinet.

However the indicators were always there of the new Cabinet's likely structure, with Senator Mathias Cormann taking responsibility for the portfolio in opposition as the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Opposition spokesman on Financial Services.

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While the exact workings of the portfolio will not be made clear until the Government releases the portfolio's administrative arrangements, the essential hierarchy likely to be encountered by the financial services industry will be that the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, will have over-arching responsibility, with the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, likely to have specific carriage of most of the broad financial services policy issues.

Hockey has a strong background in dealing with financial services, having been the minister responsible for the Howard Government's introduction and implementation of the Australian Financial Services Reform legislation when he was Minister for Financial Services and Regulation until November, 2001.

The new Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Gold Coast Liberal MP, Steve Ciobo, is expected to have a closer focus on the tax elements of the portfolio, given his background as a senior consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Cormann has been promoted to a position within the Cabinet as the Minister for Finance — a role which will limit his involvement with the financial services industry except with respect to spending and revenue issues such as the impact of changes to concessional contribution caps.

The ministerial arrangements under the Treasury portfolio have been broadly welcomed by the financial services industry, with the major organisations welcoming the experience of both Hockey and Sinodinos and the background of Ciobo.

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