Ex-serviceman turned businessman then politician, Stuart Robert, is the new minister for financial services following Cabinet reshuffle and appointment of former financial services minister, Kelly O’Dwyer, to minister for jobs, industrial relations and women.
Robert will look to draw on all his years of combat and diplomacy experience in his new role at a time when policy makers will be set with the task of legislating recommendations from the Hayne royal commission. The royal commission will publish its interim findings at the end of this month and is scheduled to deliver its final recommendations at the end of February next year.
The advice and wealth management industry has been left guessing about who would take up the responsibilities for the financial services portfolio – which under O’Dwyer included oversight for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – since the Liberal Party leadership spill towards the end of August when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted and former Treasurer Scott Morrison was appointed to the top job.
New treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced he would take up primary oversight of the ASIC, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in addition to taking responsibility for the development of the budget, economic and fiscal policy, taxation and superannuation policy, responding to the royal commission as well as broader economic oversight including major foreign investment decisions and international engagement through the G20 and APEC meetings of Finance Ministers, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Robert will have responsibility for financial services and the day to day management of superannuation, competition and consumer policy, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, FinTech, crowd source equity funding and assisting across the portfolio on matters including taxation legislation and administration, Frydenberg’s office confirmed.
Among the top issues within the advice and wealth management industry which will fall under Robert’s purview is the oversight of the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA). FASEA completed a series of consultation forums in July and closed its call for submissions from the industry at the end of last week.
Robert will pick up from O’Dwyer who, before she left the financial services portfolio, told Professional Planner it wasn’t in the government’s interest to “rush to failure” by conceiving any new legislation before the royal commission presents its recommendations.
O’Dwyer, whose early political position was that the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry would only serve to weaken the integrity of the country’s banking system, finished her time as financial services minister as an advocate for consumers with low superannuation balance in high fee products.
Robert grew up in Bundaberg, Queensland, on his family’s sugar cane farm and attended Kepnock High School and The Rockhampton Grammar School prior to winning a scholarship to attend the Australian Defence Force Academy and subsequently the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
Robert served in the Army for 12 years in Infantry and Intelligence Corps units including deploying operationally to Bougainville in 1998 as part of the Peace Monitoring Force, according to his personal website. Whilst serving in the Army, Stuart Robert completed a Bachelor of Arts and Masters degrees in both Business Administration and Information Technology.
In 2000, Robert left the Army and, together with a colleague, founded an IT services firm that rapidly expanded to become a nationwide business that was twice included in the then Business Review Weekly Fast 100 list.
In 2007, Stuart Robert was elected Federal Member for the electorate of Fadden. In 2016 Robert resigned as federal human services minister after a review by the head of the prime minister’s department found he had breached ministerial standards. According to press reports at the time, Robert was believed to use his position as an assistant minister in a way that appeared to help a company linked to a trust he owned shares in although wrongdoing was never proven.
Alongside Frydenberg and Robert, assistant to the minister for treasury and finance, Senator Zed Seselja, will have responsibility for the not-for-profit and mutuals sector including the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Royal Australian Mint, assisting the Treasurer with some aspects of foreign investment and working with the Treasurer on housing policy as well as assisting with matters across the portfolio, Frydenberg confirmed.