‘Captain’s call’: Lib MP lashes Malcolm Turnbull and ministers for opposing bank inquiry

Liberal MP Warren Entsch has criticised his government for pre-empting a parliamentary enquiry on the banks. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew Meares

Pressure builds on Malcolm Turnbull as three more Nationals MPs speak out

Veteran Liberal MP Warren Entsch has lashed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and senior frontbenchers for making a “captain’s call” to oppose a royal commission into the banking sector.

Mr Entsch, one of five government MPs who supports a royal commission into the banking and finance sector, told Fairfax Media on Monday that he was “worried about senior colleagues ruling this out when we have an inquiry under way”.

“How can senior members of the government make a captain’s call and pre-empt this [parliamentary] inquiry?”

And Liberal MP Bert Van Manen, a member of the committee holding that inquiry, due to report May 20, told Fairfax Media the committee should be allowed to run its course and that the recommendation of a royal commission should not be pre-emptively ruled out.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was, in part, brought undone by a slew of so-called “captain’s calls”, including the decision to knight Prince Philip.

The term – which the Macquarie Dictionary named its word of the year – became a politically explosive term in the dying days of the Abbott government and synonymous with the former prime minister’s lack of consultation with backbench colleagues.

When he took the nation’s top political job, Mr Turnbull promised no more captain’s calls and the restoration of cabinet government.

Labor announced on Friday it would hold a $53 million, two year royal commission if it wins the election later this year.

Mr Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton are among the members of the Coalition front bench who have subsequently dismissed the idea as a “thought bubble”, a political stunt and a “distraction” while highlighting that Labor has previously opposed such a move.

Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday that government MPs George Christensen, former minister Luke Hartsuyker and Ken O’Dowd all supported, or were open to such a probe. They join Mr Entsch and Senator John Williams.

Mr Entsch said that he had referred victims of malfeasance to the committee examining corporations and financial services and that there was “was nothing in the inquiry terms of reference that excluded a royal commission”.

“It’s all very well to say banks have learned from their mistakes and they will be nicer moving forward. But what about the sins of the past?”

“To stand up and pre-empt the findings of a Senate inquiry, when I have been referring victims to this with an expectation of them being heard, they are shattered that senior members of the government have made this captain’s call.”

A fired-up Mr Entsch vowed to keep fighting for a royal commission.

Mr Van Manen said Labor was grand-standing and engaged in political point scoring by reversing its position and backing the probe after previously voting against it.

“We should let the inquiry run its course, there is an awful lot of detail and work being done. That’s what should happen, then let’s go from them there,” he said.

“You can’t rule it [a royal commission] out.”

Mr Morrison defended the major banks on Monday, declaring that “when you hear Bill Shorten come on the eve of an election and call for a royal commission in this area, you know he’s playing politics”.

“You know he is being opportunistic and he’s being opportunistic with something which goes to the heart of the performance of our economy. Of course there are issues that need to be addressed in the banking and financial industry,” he said.

The push for a royal commission follows a string of financial scandals in the past few years, including the CBA financial planning scandal, bank bill swap rate rigging and the CommInsure life insurance scandal, which saw sick and dying people denied claims. Many of these stories were revealed by Fairfax Media.

Last week, the corporate regulator ASIC this week launched action against Westpac Bank over alleged rigging of the bank bill swap rate, and launched an action against the ANZ Banking Group for similar behaviour, while the Commonwealth Bank has been caught up in allegations of unethical behaviour by its insurance arm.

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