The banking sector's peak body says an inquiry into the corporate regulator's handling of a Commonwealth Bank whistleblower's claims relates solely to the regulator and one bank, and has nothing to do with the industry as a whole.
The Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to hold an inquiry into the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, after revelations in Fairfax Media that the regulator took 16 months to act on information about serious misconduct inside the Commonwealth Bank's financial planning unit. The bank's three major competitors were silent on the issue on Thursday, refusing to be drawn on whether the inquiry indicated stronger regulation was needed inside the sector.
But Commonwealth Bank spoke on the matter for the first time, saying it was "willing to participate in the review if required to clarify relevant issues".
The chief executive of the Australian Bankers' Association, Steven Munchenberg, said he was confident the inquiry would not involve the banking industry.
"The inquiry seems to be about ASIC, not about the banking industry ... I don't see how we will be involved," he said.
He would not be drawn on the need for whistleblower protection rules within the private sector, saying there was not enough evidence to suggest corporate legislation needed to be changed.
"What happens inside one company does not reflect what is happening in the industry as a whole," Mr Munchenberg said.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced stronger laws to protect whistleblowers, but they relate only to workers inside the public sector.
The laws make it an offence for a person or organisation to retaliate against an official for making a public disclosure, and endeavour to tighten the way disclosures are reported.
But whistleblower advocates say protections under the Corporations Act are weaker, and discourage workers in the private sector from taking action. This can inflict stress on those who come forward.
A notice of motion for the inquiry was put in the Senate on Wednesday by Nationals MP John Williams and supported by the Labor's Doug Cameron and Greens leader Christine Milne.
Senator Cameron said the inquiry into ASIC would be wide-ranging.
The inquiry's terms of reference include an examination of corporations legislation, a review of the accountability of the regulator, the effectiveness of its complaints management policies and practices and its approach to whistleblowers.