Se­na­tors urged to give nod to royal com­mis­sion

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - RACHEL RI­LEY rachel. ri­ley@ news. com. au

AN­GRY farm­ers could not hold back their frus­tra­tions and tears as they pleaded with se­na­tors to rec­om­mend a royal com­mis­sion be held into the bank­ing sec­tor at a spe­cial pub­lic c hear­ing in Char­ters Tow­ers yes­ter­day.

Farm­ers, members of the lit­i­ga­tion, real es­tate and agri­cul­ture sec­tors from across North Queens­land de­scended on Char­ters Tow­ers for the first pub­lic fo­rum of the Sen­ate’s Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Lend­ing to Pri­mary Pro­duc­tion Cus­tomers.

Three members of the com­mit­tee — chair Sen­a­tor Malcolm Roberts, deputy chair John Wil­liams and Sen­a­tor Claire Moore — heard ag­o­nis­ing tes­ti­mony from farm­ers who said their lives had been de­stroyed by the be­hav­iour of banks in han­dling their fi­nan­cial stresses.

For­mer prawn farmer Sam Sci­acca, who is wheel­chair bound, said the cur­rent bank­ing sys­tem was “rot­ten to the core” and the “ruth­less bankers” needed to be held to ac­count.

“Peo­ple are very con­cerned about how the banks are op­er­at­ing these days,” he told the Bulletin.

“We want noth­ing short of a royal com­mis­sion into these banks and fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try and I’m pos­i­tive the se­na­tors will rec­om­mend that.”

Den­nis Fa­hey told of how he lost a half- a- bil­lion- dol­lar or­ganic cat­tle busi­ness in 2011 and was now sur­viv­ing on a pension.

He later told the Bulletin in ad­di­tion to los­ing $ 60 mil­lion worth of as­sets, in­clud­ing three prop­er­ties, his mar­riage broke down, his son was sui­ci­dal and he was forced into hid­ing.

“My kids have lost their birthright and the banks don’t care,” he said.

“This be­hav­iour is fraud and crim­i­nal and it has knocked around some­thing shock­ing.

“The di­vorces, the fam­ily breakups, the de­pres­sion, the sui­cides, your guts just hit the floor.”

Pig and or­ganic poultry farmer Brett Fal­lon trav­elled from south of is us Bowen for the hear­ing. In April 2013, Mr Fal­lon, who pre­vi­ously owned cane and cat­tle prop­er­ties, poured petrol over him­self and walked into an open fire af­ter a bank came and took his liveli­hood away.

“Peo­ple have been dragged off their prop­er­ties at gun­point,” he said.

“These banks are de­lib­er­ately chok­ing these farm­ers to death fi­nan­cially.

“We’re walk­ing in here today to try our well- worn- out sto­ries one more time.”

Sen­a­tor Roberts said af­ter hear­ing yes­ter­day’s tes­ti­monies, he an­tic­i­pated the com­mit­tee would make rec­om­men­da­tions in­clud­ing changes to leg­is­la­tion as well as other “struc­tural and sys­temic changes”.

“The way farm­ers are see­ing it, and I agree with them, is that the sys­tem is not fair and is open to abuse,” he said.

“Peo­ple have been re­ally dam­aged not just emo­tion­ally but fi­nan­cially and there doesn’t seem to be much jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for some of that.”

The com­mit­tee is due to re­port back to the Gov­ern­ment by Oc­to­ber 18.

BANK CRIT­ICS: Sam Sci­acca ( Brett Fal­lon trav­elled to Char­ters Tow­ers for yes­ter­day’s pub­lic fo­rum on lend­ing prac­tices. and

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VIC­TIM: Den­nis Fa­hey told yes­ter­day’s fo­rum that los­ing his cat­tle busi­ness had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on him and his fam­ily. He is now liv­ing on a pension. Pic­tures: SCOTT RAD­FORD- CHISHOLM

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