Australia remains a serious international laggard when it comes to regulating the big four accounting firms, which are behind much of tax revenue lost to multinational tax avoidance and guilty of industrial scale conflicts of interest between their roles as auditors and as consultants. They have also emerged -- not coincidentally -- as dominant sources of political donations at the same time as they have taken advantage of public service cuts to secure billions in contracts for consultancy and policy advice services to government.
Australian politicians have refused to address the persistent issue of the conflict of interest between the major audit firms' audit and consultancy roles, despite ASIC flagging the issue over and over. In contrast, the UK competition regulator has just demanded that the big four be split into separate consulting and auditing arms and that major companies be required to hire two auditors. The Brits simply got tired of conducting ASIC-style reviews. “Just carrying on doing more reviews is not going to take us very far. We now have to make a start and that’s going to require legislation," the head of the Competition and Markets Authority said.
Here, ASIC is left conducting surveys that flag significant conflict of interest issues, with barely a flicker of interest from politicians.