On Sunday, Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer finished her now infamous interview on Insiders with the indignant admonition “Let’s be a little bit real.”
Ms O’Dwyer was trying to sell the line that her government has strengthened the corporate watchdog.
The facts are somewhat different.
The 2014-15 federal budget called for a $120 million dollar funding cut to ASIC over four years, as well as an additional $47 million “efficiency dividend” reduction.
At the time, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Steven Ciobo said “The Government thinks that there is scope for the financial services industry, and for all the other industries, to self-regulate more. There will always be (as a general statement of principle) our preference for self-regulation over the need to have a regulator [that is] tax-payer funded intervening in the field.”
Gee that’s worked well.
The following year, the budget cut another $15.8 million from ASIC funding, and they weren’t the only regulatory body to suffer.
In the Coalition’s first three years in office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission lost 14 per cent of its staff, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 10 per cent of its staff, and the Australian Tax Office 16 per cent of its staff.
According to the Australia Institute, the total staff cut among corporate regulators was 14.9 per cent, about 3900 employees.
Whilst there has since been some restoration of funding, the loss of experienced staff has been devastating.
But not so in the relentless pursuit of unions.
Whilst the other regulators were losing staff hand over fist, the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate staff levels jumped by more than half from 100 to 155.
And now we have the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission to bolster the attack. In fact, we had the expense of a double dissolution election specifically to establish these union-busting organisations.
As opposed to the “sober” and “careful” consideration that eventually led to a Royal Commission into the financial sector (after they realised that their own members were ready to cross the floor), they immediately launched into Royal Commissions into the unions and the Home Insulation Programme, dragging Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten into the dock in a desperate attempt to smear them personally.
When that didn’t work, we witnessed the debacle of Michaelia Cash’s abortive attempt to get Bill Shorten over a union donation to GetUp! over a decade ago. The decision to tip off the media to police raids is still being investigated.
From the outset, this government has been running a protection racket for corporate malfeasance whilst engaging in a full-scale frontal assault on the collective bargaining capacity of workers and on hard-won workplace entitlements.
That, Ms O’Dwyer, is the reality.