In common with most Australians, I was somewhat surprised when Malcolm Turnbull announced at his press conference this morning that there would indeed be a royal commission into the banks. The trigger he claimed for this about-face, after steadfastly refusing to even entertain such an inquiry, was a letter from the Big Four to the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, requesting that the Government institute such an inquiry.
However, on reflection, it all started to make perfect sense. Call me old and cynical, but let’s consider more closely the context of the PM’s apparent 180 degree change of direction. The sustained pressure for a royal commission into “the banks”, but essentially the Big Four, where the most egregious behaviour has consistently occurred, has been steadily building.
It shows no sign of going away any time soon. In fact, post the LNP’s disastrous performance in Saturday’s Queensland election and the subsequent realisation by numerous Nationals MPs that they’d be better served by reverting to some product differentiation from their coalition partners, the prospect of at least the necessary two crossing the floor in the House of Representatives next week was looking like a done deal. This would have ensured the motion for a royal commission into the banks would passed the House and presumably the Senate.
Now the PM is a man who’s tenaciously clinging to the top job, so pre-empting this seemingly inevitable further blow to his credibility and authority that would have occurred next week, would seem the best course of action. At the same time, it would disarm Bill Shorten, the Labor Opposition, the Greens and everybody else who’s been lambasting the Government for failing to launch a royal commission.
All that was required was “a letter” from the CEOs and chairmen of the Big Four to provide a face-saving excuse.
As the dust clears over the next few days and the media and Opposition parties dig and delve, the final details of this royal commission should become a great deal clearer. And, as my old dad was wont to opine whenever confronted by a seemingly uncharacteristic development, “Always ask who benefits”.
Today, there may be more questions than answers, but one thing is certain, next week’s final sitting of Federal Parliament will not be boring!