Bank­ing in­quiry likely de­spite prime min­is­ter's op­po­si­tion

The Guardian Australia - - News - Gareth Hutchens

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

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