Bill takes on banks

By Country News

A South Australian MP has put forward a private member’s bill to protect small farm businesses from ‘‘arbitrary and draconian’’ lending practices.

Lodged in response to a December report into lending to primary producers that unveiled instances of bullying by financial institutions, Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie lodged her Banking Amendment (Rural Finance Reform) Bill 2018 in the House of Representatives last Monday.

‘‘For too many years parliament has held hearings and released reports on how to help primary producers who have lost everything because of draconian bank lending practices, and nothing has been done,’’ the NXT agriculture spokesperson said.

‘‘There are a lot of government members who put on Akubras when they travel to the regions but they do very little to assist. They are all hat and no cattle.

‘‘It’s time for them to really put mum and dad farmers in regional Australia first.’’

The bill seeks to adopt a number of recommendations of the parliamentary report and proposes requiring financial institutions to prove simple, one-page summaries of the clauses that may trigger a non-monetary default by the borrower and requiring institutions to give notice and request to meet with the borrower at least six months prior to the expiry of the loan.

‘‘This bill isn’t asking for special treatments for failing businesses, it’s about giving primary producers greater transparency and more notice when financial institutions make decisions about the conditions of their loan agreements,’’ Ms Sharkie said.

‘‘The fortunes of farmers are often dictated by factors beyond their control.

‘‘I am also convinced that the impotence that farmers feel when faced with arbitrary and draconian decisions about their loan agreement is detrimental to the mental health of our rural community.

‘‘This issue causes more farmers to take their lives than any other so I call on the government to act on this issue.’’