The banking sector has been told it “must change forever” for forcing Australians to pay an immense financial and emotional price over many years.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised action on all 76 recommendations coming out of the banking royal commission’s final report, which was released on Monday.
It found shocking evidence of misconduct and greed in the Australian financial sector, at the expense of customers and businesses.
“From today the banking sector must change and change forever,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“The price paid by our community for this misconduct is immense, and goes beyond just the financial.
“There have been broken businesses and the emotional stress and personal pain has broken lives.”
The regulators, who copped criticism for being too weak on financial institutions, will be given more resources and stronger powers.
“If nothing else, the public is entitled to expect that the law is applied and enforced,” Mr Frydenberg said.
The government, which had held off against the royal commission as unnecessary, finally relented to pressure to call it late in 2017.
But Nationals Senator John Williams, who first called for a banking royal commission in 2009 and kept pressure on the coalition to hold it, is worried the cycle will start again.
“This is all good now, the board of directors know they’ve got to lift their game, the CEO and CFOs know they’ve got to do better,” Senator Williams told Sky News.
“However, what’s it going to be like in 20 years time? Does there need to be compulsory, mandatory code of conduct in the industry to see that the right-doing continues on for decades?”
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor would support all 76 recommendations in principle, in what he called a “sobering report”.
“Banks and financial institutions should work on an ethical basis … they should be above all, ethical,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Melbourne.
He warned the government against weakening its response to the report, and said Labor was ready to immediately change laws with bipartisan support.
“The Liberals have shown they cannot be trusted to clean up the banks,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said in a statement.
Australian Greens’ banking spokesperson Peter Whish-Wilson said the party would have liked to have seen a further focus on structural reform, rather than just conduct reform.
“Accepting all of these recommendations will go some way towards improving the system, but the system needs more than a tweak, it needs a complete shake-up,” he said in a statement.
Influential Senate crossbenchers Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch said criminal charges should be laid against those found to have done the wrong thing.
“Somebody has to face criminal charges here because some of the actions were absolutely unconscionable,” Senator Hinch told Seven’s Sunrise program, while Senator Hanson said there should be jail sentences.