A solid majority of Coalition voters want an inquiry into banks.
Polling released today identified the rebuff to government policy in the wake of indications from former minister Barnaby Joyce he is prepared to defy a veto made by cabinet when he was a member.
The appearance of a swarm of Nationals threatening to cross the floor is also pressuring Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison to back a commission of inquiry.
“We have made it very clear we are not going to establish a royal commission (into banks),” Mr Turnbull said today during his first visit to the Liberal campaign in the Bennelong by-election.
He said: “If we had set up a royal commission into banks two years ago, none of the reforms that we have undertaken would have been achieved.
“You know why? Because people would have said, ‘Oh don’t do that. Wait for the royal commission report …. wait for the report … wait for the report’.
“That’s the issue. It’s the difference between getting on with the job and taking action now, and delivering results now.”
Some 64 per cent of all voters support calls for a royal commission into banking and financial services, according to an Essential poll released today.
Just 12 per cent opposed one.
The pro-inquiry group included 62 per cent of Coalition voters — the same proportion as Greens.
The strongest support came from Labor voters and “Others” — 72 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.
Nationals senator and cabinet member Matt Canavan today said the Government had to hold its ground on the matter but foreshadowed a rebellion by his party.
“You can’t just change your position because of a couple of members — notwithstanding I respect their particular views,” he told Sky News.
“Ultimately, if that’s the way a vote goes in the Parliament or is going to go, well, that’s something we will have to deal with at the time.”
The Nationals’ leader-in-limbo, Mr Joyce will learn his fate on Saturday in the New England by-election, having been forced to step aside because of his dual citizenship.
But over the past 24 hours he has indicated support for the Nationals to split from the Liberals by backing an inquiry.
However, LNP Senator Ian Macdonald firmly rejected the rebellion, saying the royal commission pressure was “populist”, adding: “I don’t think they achieve anything.”
He told Sky News: “All they do in my view is make an easy two years for journalists and lawyers.”
In the House of Representatives, rebel Nats could side with Labor to vote for a private member’s bill creating a royal commission, or at the very least open a debate damaging to the Turnbull government.
The Lower House Nationals threatening to switch sides on the issue include Llew O’Brien and George Christensen, while those in the Senate include Barry O’Sullivan and John Williams.
Officially, the Government has long argued a royal commission would be expensive — possibly as much as $100 million — and would damage the confidence in our banks internationally.