Labor defends ASIC’s independence against Senate inquiry

Stephen Jones ASIC Joe Longo senate andrew bragg

21 July 2023
| By Laura Dew |
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The Labor government has stated ASIC is not required to provide the evidence requested by the Senate Economics Reference Committee as it is an independent regulator.

Money Management previously wrote ASIC was accused of treating parliament with contempt after failing to produce documents for the inquiry.

Documents regarding ASIC’s investigation and enforcement were due to be submitted to the committee by midday on 18 July 2023. The following day, it was concluded no response had been given and the orders had not been complied with. 

The documents related to nine questions which ASIC had taken on notice.

Chair of the committee, Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, said ASIC’s omission means the committee is unable to meet its terms of reference. 

However, today (20 July), Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones, has written to Bragg refuting his comments and requesting ASIC to submit the evidence in camera. He said neither he nor Treasurer Jim Chalmers had the requested documents.

In a letter, Jones said: “ASIC, as an independent regulator, only shares confidential information relating to investigations and enforcement matters with the government in the very rare event it is necessary and appropriate to do so. In the usual course of things, the government does not intervene in ASIC’s investigation and enforcement decisions.

“Indeed, as you would be aware, under section 12 of the ASIC Act, the government is unable to give ASIC any direction about particular cases so the circumstances in which it is appropriate for the government to request this kind of information are extremely uncommon.”

Rather than provide the information in written form as requested by the committee, Jones suggested ASIC provide the information in camera which would prevent the information from becoming public knowledge.

“It is difficult to articulate claims of public interest immunity in public without revealing the information over which the immunity is claimed. As it stands, ASIC has not had the opportunity to put its claims plainly and the committee has not had the opportunity to interrogate those claims. 

“An in camera hearing is the appropriate way forward, allowing the committee to undertake its work without forcing ASIC to reveal this information publicly before its immunity claims have been fully tested.”

A statement from ASIC confirmed it does not usually provide documentation relating to its investigations to ministers.

"As a law enforcement agency, ASIC does not ordinarily provide documents relating to its investigations to the minister, other than where it is necessary and appropriate to do so.

"ASIC has informed the committee that while it wishes to be transparent and accountable to the committee about ASIC’s activities it strongly refutes aspects of the Interim Report as outlined in the Chair’s opening statement to the committee at the hearing on 23 June 2023.

"ASIC will consider its position in light of the Minister’s response to the Senate orders.”

Responding to the letter from Jones, Senator Bragg said: “The Albanese government is now supporting ASIC’s attempts to obstruct the Australian Senate’s investigation into ASIC’s systemic failure to enforce Australia’s corporate laws.

“We will closely review the content of the minister’s statement before taking further steps in our inquiry.”

Finance Minister, Katy Gallagher, will now have to appear in the Senate on 2 August and account for ASIC’s failures. 

 

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Submitted by Fed-up on Fri, 2023-07-21 09:00

Interesting.
So Stephen Jones and the ALP want to protect ASIC rather than hold them to account.
They may want to look into the role of what elected members are meant to do.

Bragg is just doing a political beat up.

Submitted by Simon on Sat, 2023-07-22 09:24

Where there’s smoke there’s fire! Come on MM do your job and be the investigative journalist you trained to be!! Let’s see if MM will again sit on the fence or take a position!! I dare you!

Hilarious Simon. You're comparing Journalism to a group of individuals that built a website, cut and posts press releases for a living, and post advertisements. There's nothing wrong with that of course but you've got unrealistic expectations.

Submitted by Simon on Sat, 2023-07-22 09:27

Absolutely agree! Is MM going to dig deeper into what’s going on here or sit on the fence and take no position???

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