One of the craziest things that financial services professionals have to contend with is a world that does not seem to want to give them five minutes to catch a breath, have a moment’s rest, and just generally let the dust of one year settle before the bustle starts again.
Visit Treasury’s list of things that politicians want comment on and you will see a bunch of people that seem intent to try to get rid of the idea of any sort of holiday for a conscientious professional that cares about the legislation the political class is getting ready to introduce.
Let’s take a moment to consider stuff that Treasury wants people in the financial services arena to comment on that are still active at time of writing.
The most generous timeline Treasury has given people to consider a 41-page consultation paper on merger reform is two months. Submissions on that close on January 19.
Insurance boffins have until January 31 to respond to a 19-page consultation document on the use of genetic testing results in life insurance underwriting.
Mandatory industry codes are the subject of yet another consultation that has a two-month comment period, incorporating the holiday season, with the deadline for this being January 29.
Pre-budget submissions are due to Treasury on January 25, but these are deadlines essentially for everybody seeking to influence budget planning.
There are a further nine consultations listed on the Treasury web site, including a proposal for the financial adviser exam with a deadline that expired on January 10; a February 9 deadline for submissions on financial market regulatory reforms; and two documents related to what the government calls its response to the PwC matter with a January 21 deadline for both.
That makes 13 documents of varying degrees of importance and impact on people operating in the financial planning or advisory sector that have had comment deadlines with a Christmas-New Year break stuck in the middle.
Add to this the rush for the government to push out its Quality of Advice Review changes last year, and you have the regulatory equivalent of a sledgehammer whacking the advisory sector over and over in a short space of time.
Set aside the notion of the significance of amendments or changes – the financial adviser exam consultation, for example, changes the form and style of the exam – but consider the implications of the way in which the government has piled these things on in a concentrated period of time.
The implications need to be considered
The amount of feedback per proposal may vary when people go on leave. This might be fine in a situation where changes are minimal and previous consultation might have given the government the idea that it was on solid ground.
These cases might be ones that people kick back and allow to pass through if the changes are seen as relatively uncontroversial.
It may not, however, always be the case that the government has had extensive conversations with stakeholders and proposals cannot just be waved through without some argy-bargy on detail.
Professional associations such as Financial Advice Association Australia need to work out how they respond to any individual proposal in the absence of adequate time to grapple with an issue or consult with their broader membership.
Financial planners, tax advisers, and the accounting profession more broadly saw the product of a failure to consult during the final sitting weeks in Federal Parliament.
Go back to the Senate’s debate last year over provisions to tax agent regulation that require dobbing in a fellow financial planner that is a tax agent if they are particularly naughty.
Those changes were lobbed into parliament without an explanatory memorandum and as such a whole bunch of policy types, lawyers, professional association bureaucrats, and politicians were puzzled about how this stuff might work when it eventually got passed.
Some tax agents have told Professional Planner on condition of anonymity that they are reluctant to consider reporting anybody for anything until such a time as the TPB itself clarifies what those provisions mean because there was nothing that provided that clarity.
Government ministers and their departments should remember that laws and regulations are much easier to accept and implement by stakeholders if they are given a proper chance to respond.
Failing to give stakeholders a reasonable time to respond to proposals may lead to dumb things happening, and governments wanting to improve the world can do without dumb things.