BIG READ: Farmers fight back in rural bank inquiry

GIVING A VOICE: Cate Stuart and her daughter Britt, formerly of Mt Morris Station, Charleville.
GIVING A VOICE: Cate Stuart and her daughter Britt, formerly of Mt Morris Station, Charleville. Sarah Dionysius

TIME is almost up for new submissions into the Senate Select Committee's inquiry into rural banks and their lending practices to primary producers.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts is the chair of the inquiry which was established in February and is due to report by October 18.

To date, Senator Roberts said close to 100 submissions had been received from farmers across the nation.

The committee has been travelling to regional centres to interview and listen to farmers and other stakeholders regarding their injustices with the rural banks and they conducted a hearing in Roma last Wednesday.

Senator Roberts said the committee would like to get as many submissions as possible from the primary producers.

"I'm going to be talking to the other committee members about doing another hearing via phone as there are so many people who just didn't get a hearing," he said.

"What I've noticed throughout the submissions is the sheer breadth of them.

"There are some very diverse submissions."

Visit the wesbite to view in detail the submissions from farmers, including the stories told in Roma.


IT MAY be a case of too little too late for former grazier Cate Stuart, but she's putting up a fight to ensure what has happened to her family doesn't happen again.

Mrs Stuart and her family were evicted from their historic Charleville cattle station, Mount Morris, in 2014 after a rural lender sent in receivers to collect their owed debt the year before.

They now live in rental housing in Dulacca.

Mrs Stuart attended the inquiry into rural banks hearing on Wednesday with the hope that by sharing her story she would be able to help others.

"The primary production lending inquiry is very important because it has been going on for so long and there are alleged cases of financial abuse by so many primary producers," she said.

"For me personally, I came to this hearing as one last-ditch effort to give people a voice and so many people have been contacting us and watching our family's story."

The Stuart family has experienced a number of financial and personal hardships, the most recent being the passing of Mrs Stuart's daughter, due to brain cancer.

"She was an amazing and brave woman and she would have celebrated her 32nd birthday last Saturday," she said.

"When she was diagnosed with brain cancer and then her subsequent death, that period of time was made so much harder because of our financial restraints," Mrs Stuart said.

Despite this tragedy rocking her family, Mrs Stuart said she did not want to give up her fight for justice.

"It was important that we continue what Australians expect from all Australians and that is to be community minded," she said.

"Even though we have suffered personal tragedies, everybody has their own experiences.

"These are not stories or fictitious characters, we are real people and these are real-life experiences."

After hearing some of the other stories told at the hearing, Mrs Stuart said she'd expect the government would have some big issues to deal with.

"The senators at the hearing appeared to be truly shocked because people are bringing out documents that are undeniable, in my opinion," she said.

Mrs Stuart would like to see legislative reform put in place to help protect people taking out loans and will not stop until she gets closure for her family.

"I have nothing to lose, the bank did not break me, my daughter's death broke me and I need to heal," she said.

"It's too late to help people like us but let's look after those we can now and into the future."

Mrs Stuart and her family's case with the rural bank is currently an ongoing court matter.



Sunshine Coast couple Craig and Moeroa Caulfield.
Sunshine Coast couple Craig and Moeroa Caulfield. Sarah Dionysius

Sunshine Coast producers Moeroa and Craig Caulfield made the 12-hour return trip to Roma to have their story heard.

The couple were among those who attended the inquiry into the rural banks hearing last Wednesday.

Mr and Mrs Caulfield had bought a 110-acre sugar cane farm on the Sunshine Coast with a 60% loan from the bank.

They were then rocked by the global financial crisis, their businesses suffered, and their income subsidised and their cane farm closed.

"By 2010 we approached the bank for financial hardship and they declined any sort of financial hardship," Mr Caulfield said.

"They're supposed to come to the party with helping at least. It's not like a free ride, but they didn't do anything."

The couple enlisted the help of state government departments and a rural financial counselling service and were not happy with the answers they were given.

The Caulfields said they were hoping the inquiry would shed some light on the injustices they had experienced at the hands of the banks.


Bob Yabsley and consultant, mediator and negotiator Andy McLoughlin.
Bob Yabsley and consultant, mediator and negotiator Andy McLoughlin. Sarah Dionysius

Bob Yabsley has experienced more than his fair share of grievances with the banks.

Since the early 2000s Mr Yabsley said he had been fighting to keep his head above water, going into receivership two times and surviving with the assistance of consultant, mediator and negotiator Andy McLoughlin.

Mr Yabsley was evicted from his Queensland property in 2012 after going in to receivership for the third and final time.

He said he was of the belief, rightly or wrongly, it was because the banks were embarrassed that they did not do their job right the first two times and so they hit him hard with interest rate rises until he couldn't afford to keep up with payments.

"From the period of 2002 to 2012 the interest we were charged on average was 14.05% and it ranged from about 9 to 21%," Mr Yabsley said.

"The banks just worked towards making it too difficult so that I couldn't survive.

"We managed until 2012 and then it got on top of us and we virtually drove off the property with all our gear at night time and just moved out."

Mr Yabsley is hopeful that the inquiry will change the way the banks operate in the nation and a better system is established.

"What I hope this inquiry achieves is retribution to people like myself and some compensation from what we went through from the banking industry," he said.

"I would also like this inquiry to find a better banking system to go forward with than what we have today."

Topics:  business debt farming maranoa rural bank senate inquiry western downs

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