Meet Australia’s FinTech minister

Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Victorian senator Jane Hume has become sworn in as Australia’s first assistant minister for financial technology within Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s second ministry.

Mr Morrison announced his new team on Monday, including Senator Hume as the assistant minister for superannuation, financial services and financial technology, the first time FinTech has been recognised in the ministry.

Senator Hume is responsible for the troubled Consumer Data Right and open banking regimes, among other FinTech initiatives underway.

FinTech was previously overseen by the assistant treasurer with Michael Sukkar, who continues in that role. Senator Hume will work with Mr Sukkar within the Treasury portfolio under deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg.

Senator Hume said she was “delighted” with her new position.

“This is an exciting challenge in areas that are not only essential to the economy, but also the prosperity of millions of Australians. Let’s get to work,” she tweeted.

Senator Hume is the current chair of the Economics Legislation Committee, and has overseen inquiries into the research and development tax incentive and the Consumer Data Right.

The appointment of an assistant minister to oversee FinTech policy has been welcomed by industry representative group FinTech Australia.

“Senator Hume’s appointment to this newly formed role is a great step forward for the FinTech industry. Navigating policy is a major challenge for FinTechs, and being able to work directly with a minister will help them better deliver products and services that improve competition and increase financial literacy,” FinTech Australia general manager Rebecca Schot-Guppy said.

Mr Morrison was previously a major proponent of the FinTech sector, and was serving as Treasurer when the Coalition embarked on a number of policies focused on the sector, including the Consumer Data Right, Mandatory Comprehensive Credit Reporting and some taxation changes.

Some of these reforms have stalled though, and the FinTech sector will now be looking towards the new assistant minister for positive action and guidance.

The Consumer Data Right legislation, which lays the groundwork for the launch of open banking in Australia, was left stranded in Parliament as the country went to the May election with fears it will further delay the scheme.

The legislation has been labelled a “game-changer” and would be hugely beneficial to the local FinTech sector, but despite the senate inquiry giving it the green light, the bill was not passed by the Coalition before the election.

Labor had pledged to make amendments to the legislation, and is likely to still attempt to do so despite now being in Opposition. Labor has raised concerns with privacy, consumer protection, sectoral coverage and the rushed drafting process.

The Mandatory Comprehensive Credit Reporting bill, which would also provide lucrative data to FinTechs, is also yet to be passed despite being introduced to Parliament more than a year ago.

Speaking after the Coalition’s election victory, Ms Schot-Guppy said the result presents a “unique opportunity” for FinTech-focused policy.

“The Morrison government didn’t set an agenda for the technology sector in its campaign. With no policy promises to fulfil, it has an opening to steer the industry in any way it sees fit. We believe the government should use this positive opportunity to drive forward the Consumer Data Right and open banking reform,” she said.

“Open banking reform directly addresses competition concerns raised by Hayne’s Royal Banking Commission, and would provide substantial benefits to consumers. It would be a hallmark policy for the government were it to be implemented early during Prime Minister Morrison’s term.”

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