Government struggling to justify not setting up Royal Commission sooner

The Banking Royal Commission has commenced hearings into superannuation.

Senior members of the Government continue to struggle to justify their previous opposition to a banking Royal Commission in light of the revelations at before the Hayne Royal Commission.

In an interview on ABC Insiders on Sunday the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer repeatedly refused to answer if the Government was wrong to oppose setting up a bank Royal Commission.

When Minister O’Dwyer was asked if the Government was right or wrong to delay establishing the Royal Commission the Minister said: “I’ve said we’ve established it. We have in fact established it.”

Minister O’Dwyer repeatedly said the Government was being “sober and deliberate”, seemingly the Government’s chosen talking point.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull went a bit closer to answering the question, saying it was wrong – politically – to not set up a banking Royal Commission earlier.

“I made the decision not to proceed with a Royal Commission and look politically, of course, you’re all right when you say it would have been better for us politically if we’d done so years ago, or several years ago,” said Mr Turnbull from Berlin.

The PM said he was concerned that a Royal Commission would go on for several years and the Government would be unable to make reforms until it was complete. When announcing the Royal Commission the PM said it was a “regrettable but necessary action”.

Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann was asked on Sky News if he was wrong to say a Royal Commission wouldn’t lead to any public interest benefit, answering: “We as a Government made judgments based on information in front of us. We believed, genuinely believed that there had been enough inquiries, that it was time for action, that we needed to ensure that clients of the banks and other financial.…”

Pressed if the Government was wrong to resist setting up a banking Royal Commission, Cormann said: “With the benefit of hindsight we should have gone earlier for this inquiry.”

Last week the Government released the ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce Report, which it received in December. The Government says it agrees with all recommendations, but only plans to implement 30 of the recommendations soon, while delaying 20 more until after the Royal Commission.

Meanwhile Labor Leader Bill Shorten has reportedly written to the PM, calling for a compensation scheme for banking misconduct victims to be established.

When questioned how their previous position squares with later establishing the Royal Commission, the Coalition tactic seems to be to be to attack Labor.

Treasurer Scott Morrison had called a banking Royal Commission a “populist whinge” that would undermine the banking sector. Asked last week if he was wrong, and how this squares with what the Treasurer said was “deeply disturbing” admissions before the Commission, the Treasurer took aim at the Opposition Leader: “Bill Shorten might be interested in political point scoring about this issue, in fact he has only been interested in political point scoring about this issue and that’s why I directed those comments at Bill Shorten and Bill Shorten specifically. What we’ve been doing is focussing on getting the job done.”

Related: Criticism of super in banking RC “misguided and unwarranted”: Minister

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