A long-awaited public hearing into wrongdoing in Australia’s financial services sector has begun in Melbourne.

On Friday the Royal Commission said the inquiry would begin on Monday and published basic information about the procedures for leave to appear and arrangements for witnesses.

The hearing is a key development for the sector which has been bit by issues such as financial crime, customer exploitation and other allegations of misconduct.

Attention is expected to focus on the country’s ‘Big Four’ main banks, including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia which faces numerous charges of money laundering and terrorism brought against it by regulator Austrac.

In December it admitted to a number of compliance failings, agreeing that it was late in filing around 50,000 threshold transaction reports which it linked to a systems-related error, alongside a few other issues.

“We take our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) obligations extremely seriously. We deeply regret any failure to comply with these obligations,” the bank said.

Addressing issues of misconduct could prove useful for the financial services sector, which contributes an estimated nine per cent to the Australian economy, making it the largest income generator.

On Monday, Anna Bligh, CEO, Australian bankers’ association, said in an interview with ABC National Radio: “Banks have said from the outset that they will be transparent and they will cooperate fully with the Commission.

“Last week all of the major banks indicated that they would not rely on any confidentiality agreements that had been previously signed with either customers or staff and all banks have disclosed cases to the Commission in the last four to five weeks through submissions regardless of whether they’re subject to confidentiality and all non major banks are currently giving consideration to waiving those clauses and a number have already decided to do so.”

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