Voters have strongly backed a royal commission into the banking industry amid a political storm over the scope of the new inquiry, as the government stares down Labor demands for input on the terms of reference.
The commission has 64 per cent support among Australian voters, with only 19 per cent opposed, according to an exclusive Newspoll survey that highlights the government’s difficulty in opposing the inquiry for months.
Support for the commission is lowest among Coalition voters, at 56 per cent, but the plan has majority support across the major parties and two largest minor parties.
Support is strongest among Labor voters, at 74 per cent, given Bill Shorten’s strong advocacy for the idea since early last year, followed by Greens voters at 72 per cent and One Nation voters at 67 per cent.
The Newspoll results are the first response from voters on the idea of a royal commission since Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison made their “regrettable but necessary” announcement to launch the inquiry last Thursday morning.
The new poll, based on responses from 1560 interviews conducted from Thursday to Sunday, found 29 per cent of Coalition voters were opposed to the inquiry compared with 20 per cent of One Nation supporters, 12 per cent of Labor supporters and 10 per cent of Greens voters.
Union leaders and industry fund groups responded furiously to the draft terms of reference released last Thursday, accusing the government of using the inquiry to investigate not-for-profit industry funds that are backed by unions and employer groups.
While Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer included a reference to “superannuation members’ retirement savings” in the terms of reference, this does not single out industry funds and could equally apply to retail funds owned by the banks.
Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has attacked the government for failing to launch widespread consultations on the terms of reference, amid a dispute over whether the banks had a say on the terms.
Mr Bowen has called on the government to consult Labor on the terms of reference as well as speak to economic regulators and banking victims.
Labor has called for a royal commission since early last year but did not produce any terms of reference for its plan.
Contrary to speculation last week, the government does not have to seek approval in parliament for the terms of reference.
They do not require legislation and would be issued in line with previous practice under existing law.
As an arm of the executive, the royal commission reports to the Treasurer rather than parliament.
By David Crowe
5 December 2017