Politics

Here Are The Politicians Who Opposed A Banking Royal Commission

Don't let them off the hook.

banking royal commission

Malcolm Turnbull has finally admitted that opposing a royal commission into the big banks for as long as he did was “a political mistake”, and that it would have been good to start investigating the banks’ wrongdoing much sooner. No shit, Malcolm.

He then went on to defend the decision anyway, saying he and his colleagues opposed a royal commission in order to actually help customers. As Turnbull tells it, it was easier for the government to pass reforms that tightened regulations on banks without having to wait for a lengthy royal commission to make its recommendations.

Part of the point of a royal commission, though, is to find out what the actual problems are (in this case, all the dodgy things the banks are doing), so it can recommend solutions that might actually fix them. Already, this royal commission has revealed all kinds of terrible behaviour on the big banks’ part: things like charging fees to dead people, selling insurance to people who clearly can’t afford it, and lying to regulators.

And while some of the specific revelations are new, these results are not that surprising. People have been calling for a royal commission into the banks for years because they suspected exactly this kind of behaviour.

So when Turnbull says he made a mistake in opposing the commission, this wasn’t just a casual passing error — he voted against a royal commission many times, and strenuously opposed investigating the banks even when there was pretty clear evidence of wrongdoing.

He’s not the only one, either: a bunch of our most powerful politicians strongly opposed an independent body taking a close look at what the banks are up to. Here’s a refresher on who they are, and what they were saying not too long ago:

Malcolm Turnbull

Let’s begin with our Prime Minister, who only just acknowledged that announcing a royal commission earlier might have helped him politically, i.e. in the polls. He’s been opposing a royal commission for years, and going out of his way to do it.

There have been strong calls for a royal commission into banks since 2014, when a Senate report called for one, and big banks grovelled to customers to apologise for giving poor financial planning advice. Turnbull has been Prime Minister since 2015, and he’s had plenty of opportunities to implement that royal commission — Labor has been calling for one the entire time, and there’s been no shortage of banking scandals.

But Turnbull only decided to implement a royal commission once he had no other choice. It was only after a number of Nationals MPs threatened to cross the floor to vote for a commission, and the big four banks themselves called for an inquiry, that Turnbull was basically embarrassed into making it happen. That’s how much it took for the Prime Minister of this country to give the go-ahead to an investigation into potentially widespread corruption harming many Australians.

Barnaby Joyce

Back before Barnaby Joyce became a national embarrassment, he spent his time as Deputy Prime Minister, very strongly opposing a royal commission into the banks. It was only last week, as a largely irrelevant backbencher, that he tweeted that he was wrong, and that the commission’s findings so far were “beyond disturbing”. Again, no shit.

Kelly O’Dwyer

Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has also opposed a royal commission, except unlike Malcolm and Barnaby, she hasn’t admitted the error.

Instead, in a cringeworthy interview on the ABC’s Insiders yesterday, she refused to answer a question about whether the government should have called a royal commission earlier, instead just repeating that “we have taken action, we established the royal commission”.

She continued to try to take credit for taking action, despite calling the mere suggestion of a royal commission “reckless and ill-conceived” back in 2016, and opposing one all the way up until it was inevitable.

Scott Morrison

Treasurer Scott Morrison is also amongst the MPs trying to take credit for making progress despite actually opposing the royal commission for years. In 2016, ScoMo himself dismissed calls for a royal commission as a “populist whinge”.

On Friday, though, he listed a bunch of steps the government has taken to increase regulation of the big banks, conveniently sidestepping the fact that one of the biggest steps they could have taken, a royal commission, was actively avoided.

Morrison also refused to apologise for helping delay the royal commission for this long, describing calls to apologise as “political point scoring”.

John Howard

Former Prime Minister John Howard also used his significant public platform to rubbish the idea of a royal commission less than six months ago, after a fair amount of worrying evidence had already surfaced. Specifically, he called the idea of a royal commision “rank socialism”, and encouraged MPs to vote against it.

Howard has yet to apologise or acknowledge that maybe that was a mistake.

Don’t Let This Government Take Credit For This

While the politicians listed in this article were some of the royal commission’s most high profile opponents, they’re certainly not the only ones — plenty of Coalition MPs toed the party line on this one, and either actively opposed or quietly avoided the prospect of a serious investigation into the big banks.

It’s worth noting who opposed the royal commission, not as an act of “political point scoring”, but as an important insight into what this government actually stands for. As we’ve seen, the Coalition will try to take credit for shining a light on the abuses of power committed by this country’s biggest financial institutions, even though they actually stood in the way of this until the very last moment. That’s worth remembering.