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 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.
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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 is criminal and it has knocked us 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 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.This article was first published by http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.auAuthor: RACHEL RILEY