Royal commission calls gain momentum

The standing committee on economics has insisted during the major bank inquiry hearings that a royal commission would “go a very long way” to restoring public trust in the Australian banking system.

At last week's parliamentary inquiry into the big four banks, Labor MP Madeleine King stressed that a royal commission into Australia’s banks would “go a very long way” to restoring trust in the country’s banking system, particularly given that public confidence is at “an all-time low” among Australians.

“I find the number of inquiries into the banking system stunning,” she added. “There are a number of parliamentary inquiries, there are government inquiries from ASIC and treasury and also bank-led inquiries.

“I would think that if a royal commission was called into the banking sector, that would lessen the number of committees and groups that keep having to be formed to address these issues as they pop up.”

Ms King also pointed out that a royal commission would make for a more thorough investigation by banking experts, considering that she and her colleagues are not experts in the field.

“We come here armed with a bit of research every six months, whereas a royal commission would involve access and resources to expertise that could clarify this,” she said.

Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite agreed that there are too many separate reviews of the banking industry being conducted.

“No doubt this is costing your organisation a lot of money,” he said to CBA CEO Ian Narev. “Wouldn't you just be better off agreeing to one single royal commission and get this all over and done with? You talk about confidence, transparency and accountability. Isn't that the best way to ensure confidence, transparency and accountability?

“To have a full inquiry by a fair-dinkum independent person and look at what's wrong with the industry and make recommendations so that we can all get on with providing a better banking sector and restoring confidence in the industry?

“Pardon my cynicism Mr Narev, you guys have done a pretty good job at destroying confidence in the banking industry over the last decade, haven't you? If there's nothing wrong with the industry, what have you got to hide, what's the problem with the royal commission?”

However, Liberal MP Julia Banks highlighted that the strength of Australia’s banks is “indisputable”, and a royal commission would go to destabilising that image.

“More importantly a royal commission could take two to 10 years, and there will be no practical, deliverable outcomes for bank consumers, and basically the only beneficiaries will be banking lawyers,” she concluded.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten first called for a royal commission into the major banks in April last year.

[Related: Bank boss talks royal commission and rate cuts]

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Francesca Krakue

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