Tuesday, 25 May 2010
I would rather the House not adjourn just yet to allow me an opportunity to continue to draw attention to the challenges confronting many of my constituents and to particularly make reference to what continue to be dishonourable practices by lenders in their debt recovery procedures. On 17 November in this place I spoke about a debt tsunami flowing across my patch and that has continued for the last six months. In fact, it is just getting worse. In that contribution I warned lenders that, if I got any more cases like the one I dealt with on that day, I would name and shame them in this place in the public interest. I did that yesterday with Rural Bank Australia. This bank is what is left over of Elders Limited, who own 40 per cent of it. Sixty per cent of it is owned by Bendigo Bank, which has a wonderful and magnificent reputation for supporting communities and is entirely owned by its depositors. Yet the practices of this bank continue. Being a generous person, I thought that lenders would hear that warning. Most of them have, except this bank. They have not taken up the opportunity to treat my constituents and other members’ constituents in the neighbourhood of south-east Australia with dignity.
This bank is obviously in financial difficulty, and if my remarks here make an additional contribution to its demise I am sorry but that has to be the case. I am a decent Australian and I will make a stand when I see powerless people being oppressed by massive corporations, and that is what this bank is doing. I have pleaded with the directors and the board of Bendigo Bank to be very careful about having major ownership of this bank. It will bring down the very fine reputation the Bendigo Bank has established. That plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
The person who manages the debt recovery unit of the Rural Bank is a person by the name of Malcolm Sparrow. He has not heeded my warnings, so I name and shame the man. He has continued to crush constituents, even when they are servicing their debt. The Rural Bank has obviously made term arrangements for lending and, although some of the terms do not close for another 18 months or two years, this bank is coming in and calling them up. Worse than that, this bank is threatening them with legal action—an action of mortgagee in possession—and that sets off a treadmill which I do not want to see happen in the south-east corner of Australia, particularly across the farming sector. Fire sales caused by actions of a mortgagee in possession mean that farms get sold for sometimes half their value. That adds pressure to the valuation of neighbours’ properties. Their equity is reduced and their capacity for ongoing servicing of their own lenders is reduced.
I have pleaded with all the lenders and all of them are cooperating. I am still having some ongoing challenges with some, but I am sure that they will be resolved. I am not asking for the bank to take any hits at all. It is entitled to collect the funds that people have borrowed with a reasonable interest return, but it is not entitled to mistreat powerless people who lack the resources to fight the legal processes the bank has put in place.
I appeal to the Australian Bankers Association, which has a code of ethics and a code of conduct for banks, to remove the membership of Rural Bank and I call on all the other banks who are members of the Australian Bankers Association. The way this outfit is behaving is a reflection on the other banks who have worked so hard to behave in an honourable way and treat people with decency to ensure that their dignity is intact, whatever the outcome. I am keeping league tables now on the performance of lenders and I am pleased to say that most of them are listening to my concerns. I am having dealings with most of them on a day-to-day basis, standing in the breach with my constituents. I will continue to do that for them and for anybody else’s constituents.
The Rural Bank have behaved abominably in the member for Barker’s electorate, outside my patch. They currently have four cases in the member for Farrer’s electorate on the north side of the river, where borrowers not even in default have been threatened. It is just absolute thuggery. I have had enough of it and they deserve to be named and shamed. I call on the Bendigo Bank to do something about it. They have six members of the board out of 10. They have some horsepower there. They need to bring this mob to account. (Time expired)