Australian farmers testify to royal commission on predatory activities of banks


Australian farmers testify to royal commission on predatory activities of banks

Oscar Grenfell

2 July 2018

Hearings over the past week at Australia’s Royal Commission into the banks have revealed the destructive impact on farmers and rural businesses of the predatory activities of some of the country’s largest financial institutions.

Like the commission as a whole, called by the federal Liberal-National Coalition government, the hearings on farmers are a desperate attempt at political damage control, and are aimed at assuaging public anger, without impinging on the profits of the banks.

Underscoring their perfunctory character, the hearings on farmers had been scheduled to last just one week, and to hear only a handful of hundreds of public submissions. The inquiry in Brisbane was extended for several days last week, after widespread opposition from farmers. Further sessions may be held in Darwin this week.

Despite the limited extent of the hearings, they have further exposed the ruthless practices of Australian banks, which are among the most profitable in the world.

Farmers have testified that their businesses were devalued overnight, that the terms of their loans were changed without notice and that they were forced into near-destitution through foreclosures. The testimony follows similar damning evidence at earlier hearings into the treatment of small businesses and franchises, as well as workers and mortgage-holders.

Around one tenth of the submissions to the inquiry focused on ANZ bank’s acquisition of Landmark Financial Services’ loan book in 2010, a deal worth $2.3 billion, covering over 7,000 separate loans. Much of the testimony last week was by affected customers.

Charlie Phillott, a life-long grazier in central-west Queensland, reported that in…

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