Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in Berlin on a three-day visit. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in Berlin on a three-day visit. Picture: AAP

Turnbull changes tune on banks

MALCOLM Turnbull has conceded he was wrong "politically" not to announce a Royal Commission into banks years ago and has flagged further reforms targeting the embattled industry.

In mea culpa, which was heavily peppered with vindication, the Prime Minister offered his first in-depth admission that his Government wore too much pain for his decision to deny a blowtorch into the banks, and overnight in Berlin warned the sector would have to pay compensation for their sins.

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen in Berlin: Picture: AP
Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen in Berlin: Picture: AP

But Mr Turnbull all but said he made the right call because otherwise the Government would have to have waited to ramp up penalties and introduce tough new laws to reign in cowboys in the industry.

It comes just days after AMP's chief executive officer Craig Meller quit after the Royal Commission heard it had lied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for almost 10 years and charged customers fees for services never provided.

Mr Turnbull said he flagged problems with the industry during a Westpac birthday even in April 2016, and then started implementing reforms.

"When banks have done the wrong thing they must pay compensation; there's no question about that,'' Mr Turnbull said.

"We are determined to ensure that any people who have been wronged they are able to get compensation and able to do it in an efficient way.

"Politically, all the politically commentators are quite right when they say politically we would have been better setting one up earlier but as it's turned, I think we've put customers first.

"About two years ago ... I gave a speech in Sydney at a function at Westpac's in which I called out the unacceptable behaviour of the banks and I talked about how there had been a failure to put customer's first.

"They operate with a social license and they have an obligation to do that. I called that out.

"I made the decision not to proceed with a Royal Commission at the time, and look, politically you're all right when you say it could have been better for us politically if we'd done so years ago.

"And no doubt Bill Shorten should have called a Royal Commission when he was financial services minister."

He said more reforms were likely.

"There is no suggestion that I have been anything but very, very clear eyed about what's gone wrong in the Australian financial services sector.

"They were not putting their customers first and that's required a number of changes, legislation, regulation and others and we've got on and done that.

"And there's more in the pipeline. We now have a Royal Commission and we will get some very good insight from the Royal Commissioner about the state of affairs in the financial services industry and we'll get advice on reforms already put in place and how they can be improved.

"Some of this (evidence to the Royal Commission) is shocking but it is all consistent with the problems I identified two years ago which is the culture of the banks and other financial institutions has deteriorated far two frequently in a way that does not put customers first."



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