What does the royal commission mean to you?

Everything You Probably Didn’t Know Yet About the Royal Commission

Last 14 December 2017, the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services was established by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retired).

The Royal Commission headed by Honourable Kenneth Madison Hayne AC QC was tasked to investigate allegations of misconduct in the financial services sector. Such claims included provisions of deceitful financial advice, dishonest use of people’s retirement savings and other acts that are not for the best interest of the public. Public submission and hearings have already concluded awaiting the final presentation of the report to the Governor-General to be submitted on 1 February 2019.

So, what is the Royal Commission again?

Royal Commissions are ad-hoc public enquiry conducted by the government to look into matters of great importance and usually controversial topics which concern the citizens. These can include government structure of the Parliament, peace and order, conditions of minorities, or any matter which is of importance to the public. It is headed by one or more notable figures from the judiciary.

What does it do?

Royal Commission involves conducting research about an issue, involving consultations from experts and the public. The Commission has immense power to investigate and gather pieces of evidence. This includes but not limited to seizing confidential documents, summoning witnesses under oath, and order search warrants. Such power also includes holding hearings and compelling citizens to aid in the conduct of the Commission. In some cases, witnesses who fail to appear during hearings can be arrested and detained.

However, the authority of the Royal Commission is only limited to enquiry and investigation. It doesn’t have the power to overrule court decisions nor require banks and financial institutions to pay compensation to aggrieved consumers.

But while the power of the Commission is limited, the result of its investigation can affect change for the better as it makes recommendations that the Government can consider. Those could include enactment of a change in the laws and regulations governing the finance sector.

Is it important?

With all this, a question remains: how will the public benefit from the Royal Commission? By participating in the public submission and public hearings, citizens are given the opportunity to air their side. This presents the government the overall feel or pulse of the people, and which can eventually lead to changes in matters that are important; affecting therein their way of life.

It is vital as it gives voice to the people on how they think things should happen and be implemented. This is also important as changes can come from the majority and not just from a few people which situation may differ from the whole. This, in turn, will have a meaning that laws and regulations are made by the people for the people.

This is without saying that the Commission has a limitation, and the reality is that it is limited to enquiry and public consultation. Regardless of its limitation, it opens doors for the public to be heard and to be involved in how the government and the law may improve their way of life.