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Hayne baulks at extending banking inquiry

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The issue of extending the commission beyond its original one-year time frame has become a focus in recent months amid calls from the public, the ALP and other group calling for it to run longer.

In recent days Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have again said they are both open to extending the commission on request from Commissioner Hayne.

Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have emphasised that any decision to extend the royal commission requires a request by the commission first.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on Sunday the ALP would like to see the deadline of the royal commission extended.

“We believe this is a once-in-a generation opportunity for reform. But we’ll only get that if the commission has time to consult properly on specific proposals,” Mr Shorten said.

A cessation of the Hayne commission will open the door for the ALP to run a second royal commission if it takes office at the next election.

The commission has conducted six rounds of public hearings since February.

A further two-week round is scheduled from November 19, 2018.

By the time it finishes it will have heard 69 days of evidence. According to the commission’s website, it has received 10140 submissions.

Whistleblower Jeff Morris.

Whistleblower Jeff Morris.

Photo: Brendan Esposito

CBA whistleblower and financial services reform advocate Jeff Morris said the commission’s avenues of inquiry had been constrained due to its time limits.

“The commissioner has been doing the best he can with the resources he’s been given.”

“Half-way through it’s difficult for him to say do you want more time, because if he had more time from outset he would have done it differently,” Mr Morris said.

Mr Morris pointed to the child abuse royal commission that ran for five years and had five commissioners, saying it was better equipped to hear a much larger number of complaints and issues.

But Mr Morris was clear that he was not criticising Commissioner Hayne for how he has handled the mammoth task.

“It’s clear that he’s figured out the major themes, he’s figured out there’s a greed factor, there’s a fundamental failure of honestly and he’s figured out that the regulators are a joke,” Mr Morris said.

“And he’s been able to reach his conclusions fairly easily but the rest of us aren’t that smart and the community as a whole would benefit from more repetition.

“I think the finance industry shouldn’t be let off that easily.”

Mr Morris, who in 2014 made a public submission raising the question of whether fees-for-no service was technically theft, a point raised by Commissioner Hayne during the hearings, said he had made a detailed submission to the inquiry but had not heard any response to his submission.

But not all keen watchers of the commission are calling for an extension.

Consumer Action Law Centre senior policy officer Katherine Temple said the organisation did not have a “binary view” on whether the commission needed to be extended.

“There are pros and cons to both sides. But for us, just because the commissioner delivers the final report means that’s not the end of the process for us. We’re going to continue fighting for the people we help through the various consultation processes that will no doubt be happening.”

Sarah is a business courts reporter based in Melbourne.

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