As if to add insult to injury to the troubled world of Arthur Sinodinos, he found out this week his Labor predecessor has just secured a plum job in Paris.
As the senator prepares to give evidence to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption about his role in Australian Water Holdings, the previous assistant treasurer David Bradbury was packing his bags preparing for a three-year role at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Bradbury, who lost his western Sydney seat of Lindsay at last September’s election to Tony Abbott’s “sex appeal” candidate Fiona Scott, appears to have fallen on his feet.
In an email titled “some exciting news”, Bradbury was “absolutely delighted” to announce his appointment as head of the OECD’s tax policy and statistics division.
One couldn’t blame Sinodinos for being a little bit envious given his current circumstances.
While he has not been accused of any wrong doing, his distinguished career has been tarnished somewhat by a possible connection to the notorious Obeid family.
And just when it appeared things couldn’t get any worse for Sinodinos his prime project – amending Labor’s financial advice laws – has been shelved, at least for the time being.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who took over the assistant treasurer portfolio, announced he was pausing regulatory changes until he had time to consult with relevant stakeholders.
Labor, unsurprisingly, was quick to rub salt into the open wounds of Sinodinos, describing the decision as a “big blow” to the credibility of the government and Sinodinos in particular.
“This has been a botched process,” shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said, claiming the changes had been poorly conceived, poorly designed and badly implemented.
And they should be dumped altogether.
Bowen believes the government is holding back the changes because of the Senate election re-run in Western Australia on April 5.
It’s a state where consumer protection is a key concern after the collapse of property developers Westpoint in 2006.
Cormann insists the government is committed to improvements to the so-called Future of Finance Advice laws, arguing the coalition took them to election.
He will have “good faith” consultations “before pressing the go button” on his regulations which are likely to be disallowed in the Senate.
Complimentary legislation also faces defeat in the upper house where Labor and the Greens have the numbers – to June 30 at least.
Cormann says Labor’s laws have cost the industry in excess of $1 billion, with ongoing annual costs of more than $350 million.
But industry groups are more than happy to wait a bit longer for any changes.
Financial Services Council CEO John Brogden, while backing the government’s amendments, said the pause was both “prudent and sensible”.
“There has been a lot of white noise and misinformation on what the proposed FOFA refinements mean for consumers,” he said.
The Financial Planners Association, CHOICE and the National Seniors Association are concerned watering down consumer protections will mean the return of trailing commissions that eat into investments over time.
Labor’s financial services spokesman Bernie Ripoll says it is “rare and unique” for a government to offend the consumer and industry at the same time.
But Cormann insists the government is not trying to do away with a requirement on financial advisers that they act in the best interest of clients.
Nor was the government proposing to reintroduce commissions or other conflicted remuneration structures for financial advisers providing personal advice.
National Seniors chief Michael O’Neill is not convinced, saying his “good independent advice” makes it very clear that major consumer detriment will result from the changes.