The Coalition government’s controversial financial advice changes look set to remain in place for another six months, despite being disallowed by the Senate.
After a long debate in the Senate on Wednesday, the upper house voted to reverse the Abbott government’s changes to Labor’s financial advice regulations.
The Senate result came after crossbenchers Ricky Muir and Jacqui Lambie declared they would side with Labor, despite previously voting twice to keep the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) changes.
The FOFA regulations were introduced by Labor after a series of financial collapses, and were aimed at tightening protections around financial advice.
Finance Minister Matthias Cormann has vowed to continue the fight for the coalition’s reforms, saying the changes made by the senate were “not in the public interest”.
Senator Cormann has written to the corporate regulator, ASIC, asking it to “facilitate an appropriate transition” back to Labor’s scheme to July 1, 2015 – which means those in breach of the old scheme may not be prosecuted.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who joined crossbench senators in disallowing the government’s changes, disagreed, saying Labor’s protections had already come back into force.
“The (coalition) regulations were disallowed tonight by the Senate, they’re no longer active, it means that the previous regulations of Labor’s come into force,” Senator Xenophon.
“The government’s swung the pendulum too far away from consumers.”
National senator John Williams stood by the government’s planned reforms, while Liberal veteran Ian Macdonald said Senators Lambie and Muir had broken the their word.
Mr Williams said it was “rot” to suggest the government had watered down consumer protections.
“We’re removing costs,” he said.
“Now one-in-five Australians seek financial advice – that is unacceptable. We need to have more people seek professional advice.”
But Labor’s Sam Dastyari said Senators Lambie and Muir had been brave to change their minds.
He denied the pair had backflipped to get back at Clive Palmer, and said they had joined the so-called “coalition of common sense” for all the right reasons.
“They looked at the evidence, they spoke to the victims, and they came to the conclusion that frankly they voted the wrong way in the past. These were bad laws and they were prepared to change their vote,” he told ABC radio.
Senator Dastyari predicted the two crossbenchers would continue to vote against the Palmer United Party in the future.
“I think you’re going to find them increasingly going in their own way,” he said.