Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not consulted on the original appointment of embattled ASIC chair James Shipton, nor was he notified of problems with his expenses until shortly before it was publicly announced Mr Shipton would be standing aside, new evidence to a parliamentary committee reveals.
Responses to questions on notice from the Senate economics committee revealed that former minister for revenue and financial services Kelly O'Dwyer was primarily responsible for Mr Shipton’s appointment, which did not require the Prime Minister’s approval.
Labor senator and committee member Jenny McAllister asked the Department of Treasury to confirm whether the Department of Prime Minister and cabinet had been involved in the appointment process for Mr Shipton, who replaced Greg Medcraft as chair of the regulator in late 2017.
“Sections 9(4) and 10 of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act 2001 provide that the Governor-General appoints the chairperson of ASIC, having received a nomination from the Minister,” the Treasury responded.
“The appointment of Mr Shipton was approved by the former Minister for Revenue and Financial Services in 2017.”
Mr Morrison was also not notified of problems with Mr Shipton’s expenses until he disclosed he would be standing aside as chair pending an independent inquiry, according to Treasury responses.
Then minister for finance Mathias Cormann previously told the committee that he had received a call from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg “shortly before public announcements were made” regarding Mr Shipton’s status at the regulator, and that “I suspect he would have done the same for the Prime Minister”.
Responding to the question on notice from Senator McAllister around when the Prime Minister had been notified of the issues, Treasury confirmed that it had “appropriately notified the Prime Minister shortly before public announcements were made”.
However, further evidence from the regulator given to the committee indicated Mr Shipton had become aware of the issues with his expenses two months earlier.
“The ANAO first raised questions about the taxation advice services aspect of Mr Shipton’s remuneration with ASIC staff on 6 August 2020,” ASIC responses to the committee stated.
“Mr Shipton was advised by ASIC staff on 10 August 2020 that the ANAO was testing the issue. ASIC staff informed Mr Shipton on 11 August 2020 that the ANAO’s view was that the payments made for the taxation services did not meet the definition of ‘relocation expenses’.”
Mr Shipton’s original remuneration package, inclusive of relocation expenses, had been set by the Remuneration Tribunal and did not require cabinet approval, according to Treasury evidence.