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National farm debt mediation supported

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has welcomed the recommendations of the Select Committee on Lending to Primary Production Customers.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the committee had revisited some of the cases covered in her Small Business Loans Inquiry and drawn similar conclusions.

“The committee has highlighted issues with access to justice, valuations, receivers and bank culture,” Ms Carnell said.

“These are perennial themes when reviewing past cases.

“I acknowledge there have been regulatory changes and improvements in the behaviour of banks, but there remains an overwhelming sense that many past cases haven’t been properly resolved.

“Farmers are particularly vulnerable because their operations are highly capital intensive and depend on variable factors that are outside their control, such as weather and fluctuations in commodity markets.

“Banks need to support primary industries over the long haul.”

Ms Carnell said she fully supported the committee’s recommendation to establish a national farm debt mediation scheme.

“The current system lacks consistency across the country,” she said.

“Mediation should be a simple, non-confrontational first step with any dispute.

“I also believe that where mediation fails, farmers and small business people should have the right to submit their cases to the new Australian Financial Complaints Authority.”

For more information about the select committee and to read the report, visit here.