ASIC hopeful hits back at Labor attack
Credit Suisse chairman John O’Sullivan has questioned whether the Labor Party has created a precedent that would disqualify people with any political connections from future public service or judicial appointments.
“Has the shadow treasurer announced a new policy that, henceforth, anyone who has been a member, or a past member, or a donor to the Labor Party wont be allowed to take up a judicial or regulatory position?” he told The Australian yesterday.
Mr O’Sullivan, a former general counsel for the Commonwealth Bank and former partner in law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, was speaking after withdrawing his name this week from consideration as the next Australian Securities & Investments Commission chairman.
This followed comments by opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen that Mr O’Sullivan was an unsuitable candidate because of his role in the Liberal Party and emails with former Treasury official Godwin Grech.
Credit Suisse was advising the government at the time, through the Treasury, on the issue of assistance to car dealerships with financing problems following the global financial crisis.
However, the emails were used by critics of then opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull and Mr O’Sullivan to suggest Mr O’Sullivan was being partisan towards Mr Turnbull. Mr O’Sullivan said yesterday Mr Bowen’s comments raised the question of whether any former member or donor to the Labor Party should be eligible for any government or judicial role.
“We do have a tradition in Australia that people can lead a rough-and-tumble, and even a partisan, executive life, but if they are qualified and prepared to leave their past life behind, they should be encouraged to do so and join the public service and become impartial,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan said he had been “happy to leave my partisan past behind ... and do exactly that” to be ASIC chairman. “But unfortunately on this occasion, the Labor Party wasn’t prepared to give me the benefit of the doubt.”
He said he had been “bruised” by the process and warned Labor’s opposition to his candidacy would discourage others putting their names forward for regulatory positions for fear of being subject to political attack.
Mr O’Sullivan said he had received “overwhelming” support from people who felt he should have got the job to replace Greg Medcraft. “Nearly unanimously, they have said this is a dangerous precedent,” he said.
Among them was former Sydney Olympic bid leader and former chairman of law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Rod McGeoch. “It is a loss to the good governance and regulation of corporate Australia that he feels he can’t do the job,” he said.