Why are the Nationals pushing so hard for a bank inquiry?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams about how a banking inquiry is close after reports a second Nationals MP is set to cross the floor

Introduction: Why are the Nationals pushing so hard for a bank inquiry?

Ross Greenwood: Anyway so on this issue, I want to change subjects just for a moment and take you to what appears likely, and that is a bank inquiry. Quite clearly the labor party were to win government at the next federal election there would be an inquiry perhaps a royal commission into our banks. In the meantime, you’ve got the nationals in the Senate in particular really now rallying their forces to try and drive some form of bank inquiry through our parliament. That would report to the parliament, now as you’re well aware on the program we’ve spoken to a number of the key players inside the national party, in regards to that.

A little earlier on the program, I did speak to Matt Canavan, who is the minister for north Queensland. Now he’s indicated to me that really he does not believe in a royal commission, but now you ask another question about the nationals inside the coalition. Are they a party of individuals who can make their own choices on a range of different issues, or are they part of the government with some form of solidarity?

Let’s get to a man who really has been instrumental in the inquisition of our banks in Australia, and he’s prosecuted significant cases against them in regards to matters of storm financial. Would have been one the financial planning scandal at the Commonwealth Bank would be a second. The coming shore scandal at the Commonwealth Bank would be a third amongst others. That is Senator John Wacka Williams, a national senator who was online right now. Many thanks. Your time John.

Interview with: John “Wacka” Williams, Senator, Nationals

Senator John Wacka:  It’s always good to talk to you, Ross.

Ross Greenwood: So walker just tell me this. I mean would you agree with my prognosis that a bank inquiry now seems almost certain there are now at least two nationals who say they would cross the floor of the house of representatives, vote with the greens and also with the labor party on any sort of support for an inquiry into the banks. Does it seem as though it’s a done deal?

Senator John Wacka:  I would agree with you Ross because it’s all about numbers in this place. As I said in the media today it will go through the Senate nothing sure with the numbers, the government does not control the numbers in the Senate. It’ll go through there for sure, when it comes to the house, well they’ll need a couple to vote for it. A couple to cross the floor. There’s talk about George Christensen and there’s talk about Liew O’Brien in the media. I’ve not spoken to them, I have not asked them that question. No doubt this will be discussed next Monday when the national party meets back here in Canberra when the reps are back as well, Ross. Ill see how it all works out, but my gut feeling is yes it will proceed.

Ross Greenwood: I asked Darren Chester or rather I should have asked Matt Canavan about this. Because you’ve got Darren Chester is a minister in the house of reps who is a national minister. You’ve also got Michael McCormack there’s a small business minister, there’s obviously Nigel Scullion who is a senator but they’re slightly different. And also Matt Canavan as a senator, but Darren Chester and Michael McCormack. Where would their allegiance as would you imagine lie with the national party room? Would it lie with the government given the fact that they are a member of the cabinet?

Senator John Wacka:  Well as it works in the coalition Ross and the liberal and national parties, backbenchers are free to vote how they like. Not a common occurrence that happens on the odd occasion, but ministers if they cross the floor and vote against the government line they get sacked as ministers. So I would not expect, if this is to go to a vote in the house I would not expect any minister to cross the floor give up their job. They can achieve more for their people by being in that ministry and having a say in cabinet or out of ministry. But perhaps they would be backbenchers cross the floor and give the numbers to the people who have this inquiry.

Ross, the sad thing is I wanted this seven or eight years ago. Even in 2013 when I launched an inquiry into ASIC we recommended a royal commission into the banks then. Labor was in government they did nothing as sat idle. I just wish we’d had this years ago, we may have stopped a lot of the wrongdoings. I mean these serious allegations of 53 000 breaches of the us track allegations. That is a real big concern that one.

Ross Greenwood: Then take me back to the Queensland election over the weekend, because quite clearly there has been a backlash against a liberal national party in the nationals now saying effectively you could actually divide the state into two. You’ve got north Queensland, that has largely gone more towards one nation. You’ve got the south of the state that has largely gone against liberal national party, has gone more towards the greens if anywhere. I mean you’ve heard George Brandis say that effectively one nation is a real problem if anybody’s voted for one nation, they’ve effectively supported labor in that Queensland election. Is it a case whereby it’s the nationals or the liberals or one nation there’s no real in-between?

Senator John Wacka:  We’ve got to lift our game. Look what happened in Queensland is the well-oiled machine of labor-backed by the unions backed by get up. You wouldn’t believe it last Tuesday I had a call from get up, get up being a lobby, want to know we’re being told which way I would vote. I don’t even live in the state. Then another call from get up said the evening saying, did they call influence the way I voted. I don’t live in a state.

This is what we’re up against all these people. It’s like a tag team in a boxing ring you’ve got your the LMP in one corner in the other corner, the greens, and the labor party and get up and the unions and so on. I think we’ve got to learn from that powerful amalgamation that the left has got put together for us to be in the race in the future.

Sure one nation didn’t help because this is very strange Pauline Hanson said they would preference against every sitting member. That’s a bit strange because some of those sitting members were very decent good members hardworking members, some of them have now gone.

Ross Greenwood: It’s interesting to watch it and as I say it’s going to be curious. There’s a sense that I get from inside the banks talking with a number of senior bankers over the past couple of weeks is that there’s almost an inevitability that some form of commission or some royal commission will come notwithstanding the government and in particular the prime minister’s opposition to it, the treasurer, of course, indicated he believes there is no reason to have a royal commission and that’s the political position that they’ve got. But inside the banks it’s always as well saying, well we think something’s happening, we think something’s happening.

Senator John Wacka:  Ross as I said to one very senior bank’s staff last week when I was walking onto the plane in Canberra from the airport to the plane, I said, “look if you get an inquiry if it does eventuate you’ve really only got yourself to blame for this issue to that issue to storm finance with the financial planning, to bank bills swap rates to us trucks you name it.” The thing is — This the question Ross, with all those senate inquiries and parliamentary inquiries we’ve done, have we opened up every problem there or if we tip the iceberg is a lot more problems that we have not opened up?

So that’s the question if we have a commission of inquiry, which is basically a royal commission that will report to the parliament instead of the executive of the government. Will it open up any more wrongdoings avenues of seeing where the wrongdoings are and what changes then will have to be made to see that they are corrected?

Ross Greenwood: What’s your sense on that John?

Senator John Wacka:  That’s a big question. I just don’t know, Ross I just don’t know. But as I said I wish we’d had this year’s ago we may have headed off these things like this alleged slackness of the IDM and the off-track allegations. Where money Ross may have gone overseas to finance terrorists who want to kill you and me. Or to finance drug lords who don’t care if they kill our children. This is really serious, as I said to the bank officer if he comes on you’ve only got yourself to blame.

Ross Greenwood: Senator John Wacka Williams, national senator this is important stuff because it means obviously the government would be split on these lines. The nationals though are absolutely determined, many of them, to try and get that bank inquiry up, and it would seem as John says that the numbers on the floor of our parliament really do count for everything. Senator John Wacka Williams as always great having the program.

Senator John Wacka:  Thanks, Ross. Thanks for having us.

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