Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has all but confirmed the government will press ahead with establishing a tribunal to hear grievances against banks.
A day after Treasurer Scott Morrison left open the prospect, Mr Turnbull went further, saying the government was “looking at that”.
He said unlike a royal commission which was being demanded by Labor, a tribunal would provide an immediate avenue of recourse for people who feel they have bee wronged and would deal with specific allegations.
“Our focus with respect to the banks and financial services is to take action,” Mr Turnbull has told radio 3AW
Mr Turnbull’s statement has worried the banks. On Thursday night, the big four plus ME Bank were put on negative credit watch by Moody’s.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia feels this potential downgrade is a consequence of the political commentary directly targeting the banks.
“It reminds us that at times of global economic volatility, Australia’s major banks are under intense scrutiny from ratings agencies and global funding providers,” CBA said in a statement.
Commonwealth Bank’s long-term senior unsecured rating was affirmed at Aa2 by Moody’s, but moved from stable outlook to negative outlook.
Mr Morrison said the boost the government gave earlier this year to the resources and powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission would deal with structural issues inside banks concerning financial advice and insurance.
The announcement two weeks ago that once a year, bank executives would have to appear before Parliament’s House Economics Committee would deal with accountability and transparency concerns.
The tribunal proposal, he said, raised “quite a specific issue in relation to individual cases and importantly the mediation about how these things can be resolved”.
The tribunal, which is being pushed hard by Queensland Liberal Warren Entsch and Nationals senator John Williams, was recommended in May by a Senate inquiry, led by South Australian Liberal David Fawcett.
Essentially, it would enable people to test grievances against a bank without having to pay, unlike if they had to go to court.
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