Bankers: in the cross-hairs of angry cross-benchers

The Senate voted last week to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into banking, superannuation and financial services industries, only the second such inquiry in Australian history. The bill was put up by cross-benchers and supported by Labor.

The Turnbull government has consistently opposed legitimate and soundly based calls for a Royal Commission into the comprehensive malfeasance of Australia’s banking cartel and the FIRE sector. The commission of inquiry would have identical powers to a Royal Commission.

The bill needs only two government defections in the House of Representatives to pass, though it would first need approval of a government-dominated committee that selects non-government bills for debate. One of those votes should be Treasurer Morrison’s, still nursing a red-hot rage over recent banker abuses.

Widespread voter dissatisfaction is putting the government under intense political pressure for reform, or at least sober consideration of whether the FIRE sector operates in the national interest.

Critics like Denise Brailey of the Banking and Finance Consumers Support Association may finally get to question bankers under oath over many documented cases of outright bank fraud.

The inquiry can consider commercial banks’ legal licence to create credit out of thin air – described by the Bank of England as: “Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money.”

Only the Commonwealth of Australia should hold the extraordinary privilege of spending Australian dollars into existence.

Real opportunities to inspect the inner workings of the bank cartel come around once in a generation. This goes to the fundamentals of whether we live in a citizen’s democracy or are merely rats on a wheel.

The Turnbull government’s narrow majority and many nervous back-benchers on wafer-thin margins mean it cannot risk political capital – if voters genuinely want a comprehensive bank inquiry, one must be held.

The conservatives are insatiable consumers and expert users of opinion polls, for framing their public stance on issues and identifying just how far they can push reluctant voters. The next private polls should be in their hands within days. We will soon know whether voter demand trumps bankster horror of a banking inquiry with real teeth.