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Banks unable to foreclose on farmers without debt mediation under new Queensland laws

Photo: The laws require financial institutions to offer mediation to farmers before starting enforcement action.(ABCL Candice Marshall) Photo: The laws require financial institutions to offer mediation to farmers before starting enforcement action.(ABCL Candice Marshall)

Banks will not be allowed to foreclose on struggling Queensland farmers without first offering them debt mediation under new laws passed in State Parliament.

Labor and the LNP supported the Farm Business Debt Mediation Bill, which would require financial institutions to offer mediation to farmers who were in arrears before starting enforcement action.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said it was an alternative to expensive and drawn-out legal battles.

"We want to ensure farming families experiencing financial difficulty are treated fairly by financial institutions when they are faced with the daunting prospect of selling property assets to repay loans," Mr Byrne said.

"We know that mediation is a vastly preferable mechanism and effectively done, people can come out of that with a good outcome and it's the best chance of people succeeding, moving on with their lives both from the mortgagee, the bank's side of the house, but also more importantly for the farmer."

The LNP supported the bill and helped the State Government oppose a Katter's Australian Party (KAP) bid to establish a rural development bank.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Dale Last said the KAP bill would not have helped farmers.

    "The last thing we need in Queensland is something to add to red-tape bureaucracy," he said.

KAP leader Rob Katter has pushed for years to establish the bank, which he argued would offer struggling farmers alternatives to the current commercial lending arrangements.

He said the major parties had passively watched farmers fail for years and Parliament's rejection of his bill failed them again.

"We had a great opportunity here tonight to do something really meaningful, it would have had a legacy, everyone could have had a win," Mr Katter said.

"That opportunity wasn't taken. I would put that down to politics and I think that's a really sad night.

"We're happy to build sports stadiums or traffic tunnels or bridges in town, but we can't provide debt [relief] to productive industries that generate economic activity, and these are typically standalone industries that just need a bit of a reset and a leg-up."

The new laws will take effect from July 1 and will be overseen by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority.

This article was first published by http://www.abc.net.au
Author: Gail Burke
Last modified onWednesday, 22 March 2017 23:04

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