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Australia pitches for Islamic finance role

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Australian Government Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen has been appointed as Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law in a ministerial re-shuffle. Recognising the importance of financial services to the Rudd Government, the Ministerial position, which was previously held by Senator Nick Sherry, has now become a cabinet position.

Commenting on the appointment, Bowen indicated that one of his priorities would be to make Australia a global hub for Islamic finance. “I think there’s a great opportunity for Australia to play a key role in areas such as Islamic finance. A large proportion of the world’s Islamic population lives in Asia Pacific.  Singapore and Malaysia are trying to corner this market for themselves, but I think Australia can play a role. Even if we only take a small percentage of the market, it could generate a lot of wealth and jobs in Australia.”

Bowen, whose previous role included responsibility to promote Australia as a global financial centre stated that the global financial crisis represented an opportunity for Australia. “If we come through this crisis as we are, as one of the few nations not to have experienced a run on a deposit taking institution, where our prudential regulation is now respected as best practice, we’ll have great opportunities. The world’s investors will continue to look for safe and stable places to invest.”

“Despite our superannuation funds being buffeted, we have a considerable pool of funds under management. We’ve developed great skills in Australia and we’ve got to export those skills and create well paid interesting jobs for our young people.”

Bowen inherits a review of the superannuation system that was established by his predecessor Senator Sherry. The review, to be chaired by Deputy Chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Jeremy Cooper will examine the governance, efficiency, structure and operation of Australia’s superannuation system and is scheduled to report to the Government by 30 June 2010.

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