Pressure on Turnbull over banks as three more Nats MPs speak out on royal commission

Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to hold an inquiry into the banking and finance sector. Photo: Craig Sillitoe Malcolm Turnbull says the budget will include tax changesdesigned to generate jobs and growth; and promote investment, innovation and enterprise. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Three more Nationals MPs, including a dumped former minister, have left the door open to supporting a royal commission into the banking and finance sector, ramping up pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to hold the inquiry and highlighting divisions in the Coalition over the issue.

And Australian Council of Trade Union chief Dave Oliver has also thrown his weight behind the move, writing to Mr Turnbull on Sunday to urge the inquiry – and to create a federal independent commission against corruption – because of the “many scandals and allegations of corrupt behaviour in recent times”.

The Coalition and Labor are on a collision course for an election year fight over wrong-doing in unions and the finance sector after Mr Shorten announced on Friday that if elected, the ALP would hold a two-year, $53 million inquiry after a string of allegations of wrong doing at Westpac, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank and elsewhere in recent years.

On Sunday, cabinet ministers Peter Dutton and Josh Frydenberg as well as Mr Turnbull pushed back against the inquiry, with the prime minister describing it as a “thought bubble” and arguing banks and financial services were already heavily regulated.

“[ASIC] has all of the powers to inquire of a royal commission but it’s got the powers to prosecute and to take action, which it is doing. It has many current actions on the books at the moment. It has banned people from in the industry, it has enacted fines, it is a very active regulator,” he said.

“In addition to that you have the prudential regulation authority, APRA, and it also has powers equal to a royal commission and indeed greater.”

The opposition leader, Mr Turnbull said, was trying to distract people from the fact that Labor opposes the restoration of the construction industry watch, the ABCC.

But Nationals MP George Christensen backed the probe, while MPs Luke Hartsuyker and Ken O’Dowd indicated they could be prepared to support it too, creating a political headache for the prime minister.

Mr Hartsuyker, a former minister for vocational education in the Abbott government, said of the inquiry: “I think it is definitely something that should be considered”.

He is the most senior government MP yet to indicate a willingness to support the probe.

Mr O’Dowd said he was “open to the idea, but I need more evidence and I wouldn’t like to see the reputation of the big four banks tarnished overseas”.

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