Opposition rejects government’s ASIC pick

21-Sep-2017

By Sarah Kendell

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Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has said Labor would not support the appointment of former Credit Suisse investment banking head and Liberal Party member John O’Sullivan as chair of the corporate regulator.

In a statement released yesterday, Bowen said speculation the government was to appoint O’Sullivan following the retirement of outgoing chair Greg Medcraft threatened the “independence of and bipartisan support for this important regulator”.

“Labor makes it very clear we will not support Mr O’Sullivan’s appointment should it proceed,” he said.

“Labor does not do this lightly – we do this in light of our most serious concerns and our respect for the importance of ASIC’s independence.”

O’Sullivan, who was also a former general counsel of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, had been president of the Liberal Party’s electoral conference in the Prime Minister’s seat of Wentworth and had previously donated to his campaign, he said.

In addition, he had been linked to former Treasury official Godwin Grech, whose forged email implicating former prime minister Kevin Rudd in supposed preferential treatment for a local Queensland car dealer had brought about the ‘Utegate’ scandal in the late 2000s.

“There were emails released as part of the investigations into the Utegate affair which showed contact between Mr O’Sullivan, then chairman of Credit Suisse’s Australian investment banking operations, and Godwin Grech,” Bowen said.

“Australia has well-respected economic regulators based on a tradition of non-partisan appointments. If the Prime Minister and Treasurer were so foolhardy as to proceed with this appointment, this matter would go directly to the poor judgment of the Prime Minister and Treasurer,” he said.

He added ASIC had a vital role to play in regulating financial conduct and protecting consumers, and “the last thing it needs is this sort of controversy fixing itself upon ASIC’s leadership team”.

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