Industry welcomes new Cabinet appointments

The financial services industry has reacted positively to new PM Malcolm Turnbull’s Cabinet shake-up, which has brought in a new minister to oversee the government’s many reviews of the sector.

In addition to Scott Morrison replacing Joe Hockey as Treasurer, former Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been promoted to Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Minister.

Taking over his role as Assistant Treasurer is Kelly O’Dwyer, who has also been given the Small Business portfolio in a move that many in financial services say should help deliver better outcomes for small operators.

Although the specific responsibilities of the new Cabinet members have yet to be confirmed, Turnbull says O’Dwyer will have a wide remit.

“The Assistant Treasurer is in effect the minister for revenue and is responsible for the tax system, which is at the very centre of our whole productivity agenda, indeed at the very centre of the small business agenda,” he says.

Synchron Director John Trapnell said O’Dwyer’s dual portfolios would bring small business concerns front of mind.

“Ms O’Dwyer will have a big picture perspective of the advice profession and the impact, both macro and micro, that those reforms can and will have on advice practices,” he says.

AIOFP Chief Executive mirrored those feelings, calling it a game-changer for small financial advice firms.

“With Kelly having both portfolios she will more than likely have a sympathetic ear for small business operators, and not coming from an institutional background will tilt the ‘fairness barometer’ in favour of consumers and advisers,” he says.

Ms O’Dwyer will have a big picture perspective of the advice profession and the impact…

NIBA CEO Dallas Booth congratulated Frydenberg on the new role and says it is with some disappointment that he leaves, as NIBA had been working very closely with him and there were a number of important government announcements expected in the coming weeks.

As well as the government’s response to the Financial System Inquiry – which was due to be announced last week but was overtaken by the leadership spill – the insurance sector is waiting to hear the government’s plans on a number of other fronts, including insurance affordability in Northern Australia, professionalism in the financial services sector and the implementation of life insurance reforms.

O’Dwyer began her career as a corporate lawyer, before becoming an economic policy adviser to former treasurer Peter Costello, and later a banking executive.

She has been in Parliament for six years and has served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer since last year.

Insurance Council of Australia CEO Rob Whelan says the new Treasury team would be well-equipped for the economic challenges ahead.

“The insurance industry looks forward to strengthening its relationship with Assistant Treasurer O’Dwyer on key policy issues, in particular the government’s response to the Financial System Inquiry and the long-overdue reform of taxation,” he says.

Whelan also welcomed the creation of the new Cities and the Built Environment portfolio.

“This is recognition that the growth and sustainability of Australia’s communities deserves its own focus. Insurers have long advocated that communities should be designed to withstand known and anticipated extreme weather conditions, and the ICA looks forward to speaking to Minister Jamie Briggs on these matters,” he says.