SENATOR John ‘Wacka’ Williams is confident the banking royal commission on will protect those who speak out.
The Inverell-based politician was concern the banks would purse legal action against anyone who told their story.
“The issue was that many people who have had a disagreement or a blue with the banks come to an agreement and sign a deed of settlement,” Senator Williams said.
“In that agreement, there is almost always a clause saying you can’t speak out against the bank or institution.
“Now, with a parliamentary or senate inquiry, that doesn’t matter because you are covered by parliamentary privilege – that is not the case with the royal commission.”
Two weeks ago, Senator Williams contacted the royal commission to notify them of the “serious problem”.
“If people think they’re going to get sued for coming forward, then we’re not going to get the evidence we need,” he said.
“Thankfully, in his opening address, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne made it clear those who came forward would be protected.
“He said he would use his powers to summon documents and if any institution tried to sue someone, he’d be asking the question why, and what that institution is trying to hide.”
“I’ve had long discussions with the Attorney-General and after reading the solicitor’s language, I’m confident people will be covered – especially if they lodge the submission in total confidence.”
Senator Williams has been calling for a royal commission into the finance sector for years, and it’s an issue close to his heart after his own personal battle with the banks
But he won’t be putting in a submission: “I’ll leave it to the public”.
“If they have a problem, I’m certainly glad to talk to them and give them some guidance,” he said.
“I’ve had one person come to me with a high-level fraud of $100 million, hence the needed for protection of witnesses.”
Senator Williams is disappointed by “the whole culture of profit before people” in the sector and encouraged people to submit their stories online.
“I hope the wrong doings and the culture problems in the financial sector are brought forward, and we can clean it up for future generations,” he said.
“The Australian people need to have their confidence in their financial services returned to them.”