Banking inquiry likely despite prime minister's opposition
The push from within Coalition ranks to establish a banking inquiry over the head of the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, looks set to succeed in the Senate.
After negotiations overnight, the Liberal National senator Barry O’Sullivan has agreed to amendments proposed by the Greens in return for their support.
With Labor also promising to back O’Sullivan’s private member’s bill, it looks set to pass the Senate before travelling to the House of Representatives.
It has a serious chance of passing the House because dissident Coalition MP George Christensen and fellow Queenslander Llew O’Brien have confirmed they intend to cross the floor to vote for the inquiry against Turnbull’s wishes.
The O’Sullivan-Greens deal comes a day after Turnbull tried again to dampen growing pressure for an inquiry, saying the Coalition would not support a royal commission because “our focus is on results”.
“It is on action,” he said. “That is why we have not supported a royal commission. If we had set up a royal commission into banks two years ago, none of the reforms that we have undertaken would have been able to be achieved.”
The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said his party believed the bill could pass in the Senate this week.
“We will now have a fair dinkum inquiry, if this passes the House, into the financial and banking sector,” Di Natale said.
“My message to every bank chief executive across the country is get ready for an inquiry. It’s coming, it’s coming fast, and you’re going to have to answer to those victims that you’ve preyed on for so long.”
The Greens’ amendments mean O’Sullivan’s commission of inquiry into the banks – if it passes both houses – will specifically consider political donations from financial institutions, the vertical integration model used by banks, and executive remuneration.
A majority of 76 MPs will be needed in the House to suspend standing orders and bring the bill on for debate, but the votes of Christensen and O’Brien will ensure the numbers.
The last time a commission of inquiry was established by the parliament, in 1986, the Hawke government funded it. But it is unclear whether the government would fund this one.
On Tuesday the Nationals senator John Williams declared the Turnbull government must fund the inquiry, saying it would be very “strange” for a government to ignore the will of two houses of parliament.
Barnaby Joyce, who is fighting to hold his seat of New England in a byelection this weekend, has signalled the Nationals might formally support a banking inquiry after MPs meet in their party room in Canberra on Monday.
Coalition and Greens senators believe a banking inquiry bill could be passed by the Senate this week. Photograph: Joel Carrett/ AAP