Federal Cabinet will come under more pressure to increase the powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission with a poll showing that two thirds of Australians support a royal commission into banking.
A Fairfax Ipsos poll has found that 65 per cent of voters support a royal commission while in only one in four or 26 per cent oppose it.
The poll found that support for a royal commission was highest among Labor and Greens voters at 78 per cent and 79 per cent respectively.
However, it also had support from more than half the Coalition voters at 53 per cent.
For example, 70 per cent support the royal commission and 19 per cent disapprove it in the Victorian seat of Dunkley, vacated by outgoing former small business minister Bruce Billson.
Labor has turned the royal commission into a damaging election issue with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Treasurer Scott Morrison saying it’s not necessary and that Labor’s call is a distraction from this week’s special sitting of Parliament where the government will push the Senate to pass two bills to increase the regulation of trade unions.
To counter the pressure for a royal commission, the government is looking at boosting the powers and resources of ASIC in response to recommendations from both the financial system inquiry headed by David Murray.
Cabinet is expected to approve measures boosting ASIC’s powers tomorrow.
This might include restoring some or all of the $120 million ASIC lost in the Abbott government’s 2014 budget and giving it product intervention powers, that would allow it to unilaterally ban a product from a financial services provider. New measures might also allow it to introduce a tougher regime of civil penalties.
Banks have indicated they are prepared accept changes allowing ASIC to more tightly control or ban the sale of higher risk financial products that threaten to harm consumers’ bank balances.
ASIC also wants the power to force financial services companies to change their marketing materials; slap warnings on products that may not be suitable for most customers; and require that some products can only be sold through a financial adviser.
Australian Bankers’ Association, Steven Munchenberg,said the banks were broadly supportive but were concerned powers might be too broad and deter banks from bringing new products to market.
“We support it, but it will need to be done carefully, so that it’s clear to banks and other financial institutions when ASIC would be likely to use it and under what conditions, so that they’ve got some certainty about bringing products to market,” Mr Munchenberg told Fairfax Media.
“If it’s too broad then the uncertainty and the risks will outweigh the benefits.”