FEDERAL Opposition Leader Bill Shorten visited the Bellarine Peninsula last weekend to announce several changes to the way banks treat farmers.
Mr Shorten and Labor candidate for Corangamite Libby Coker visited the Marcus Hill farm of City of Greater Geelong councillor Jim Mason on March 3.
In a joint statement issued afterwards, Mr Shorten and Ms Coker said that, if elected, Labor would “stand up to the big banks and fight for overdue compensation and justice for farmers”.
The statement highlighted that Labor had spent the past six month speaking to victims of banking misconduct across Australia – one of these visits was to Grovedale in October.
Under Labor’s policy, the government will review treatment of distressed loans, by looking at cases where default interest was charged by banks to farms for the past five years.
Labor will also introduce a new regulatory process for banks to seek a pre-approval for farm foreclosures, meaning that “banks cannot kick farmers off their land until they have received clearance from the regulator”.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority’s existing compensation caps for farmers would be doubled, from $2 million to $4 million. Under Labor’s compensation scheme, for the first time farmers would also be able to get access up to $4 million (up from the present cap of $5,000) for non-financial loss in recognition of the strain that the misconduct has put on their lives.
“The Banking Royal Commission heard cases of unimaginable misconduct against our farmers -graziers who were told they would be left with nothing but the clothes on their backs after being crippled by default interest, drastic devaluations of properties forcing farmers leaving farmers in debt,” the statement noted.
“While nothing will erase the damage done by the banks’ misconduct, these measures will help farmers rebuild their lives with proper compensation, and help ensure that we never see this type of behaviour again.”