Australia's Biggest Banks Pivot, Call for Financial Inquiry

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Australia's biggest banks have tackled head-on mounting calls for a sweeping judicial review of the country's financial industry, reversing earlier opposition and calling for the federal government to launch an inquiry to counter what they say is damaging political uncertainty.

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Efforts by backbench politicians to force an inquiry intensified this week when the opposition Greens party agreed to support a private member's bill from a senator in the Nationals party, part of the governing coalition with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals. That threatened to undermine Mr. Turnbull, who has repeatedly rejected the need for a lengthy and costly inquiry.

In a letter to Treasurer Scott Morrison, released to the stock exchange Thursday, the chairmen and chief executives of the four largest banks said it had become imperative that the government act decisively to deliver certainty to the financial services sector, its customers and the community.

The latest wave of speculation about a parliamentary commission of inquiry into banking and finance has hurt confidence in the financial system, including in offshore markets, and has diminished trust in the sector, the heads of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. and National Australia Bank Ltd. wrote.

"We now ask you and your government to act to ensure a properly constituted inquiry into the financial services sector is established to put an end to the uncertainty and restore trust, respect and confidence," they said.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 29, 2017 17:25 ET (22:25 GMT)