A royal commission into banks is back on the agenda in the dying days of the election campaign, after whistleblower Jeff Morris asked about the issue on national television.
On Monday night’s Q&A, the last before the election on Saturday, Mr Morris – a former financial advisor who exposed unethical practices at the Commonwealth Bank – asked finance minister Mathias Cormann why nothing had been done to address banking scandals.
“Mr Cormann, eight years ago I became the whistleblower in the Commonwealth Bank financial planning scandal,” Mr Morris began.
“The subsequent Senate inquiry in 2014 found that your ‘tough cop’ ASIC [Australian Securities and Investment Commission] was a timid and hesitant regulator and recommended a royal commission into the Commonwealth Bank.
“Many more financial scandals have taken place since then, all on ASIC’s watch, and yet your government still refuses to call a Royal Commission. Yet at the same time your government also takes millions of dollars in political donations from those same banks.
“My question to you Mr Cormann is how can this possibly be right?”
The Liberal minister responded that the investment regulator was effective and having more inquiries, which looked at the issue without taking action, was not the “best way forward”.
“We’ve taken action, we’ve given additional resources to ASIC, we’ve responded to the recommendations that have been made by various inquiries,” he said.
“In our judgment it was time for action, not time for yet another inquiry that essentially would not be able to do anything about what it finds.”
This point was rejected by Mr Morris, who said if ASIC really was effective, none of these scandals would have happened in the first place.
“We’ve seen what a royal commission can do through the royal commission into child abuse,” he said.
“For $53 million, less than one third the cost of the pointless plebiscite on marriage equality, you could have a royal commission into the banks.” ”