ONE Nation WA Senator Peter Georgiou has continued to try to pressure the federal Coalition government into holding a Royal Commission into the banking sector to examine issues concerning the farm sector.
Senator Georgiou ventilated his concerns about the treatment of farmers during foreclosure proceedings in Senate question time today.
His attack came as Nationals Queensland Senator Barry O’Sullivan appeared a step closer to succeeding in establishing a Commission of Inquiry into the banks with two of his party colleagues indicating they’d cross the floor in the Lower House to support his private members Bill.
WATCH-BANKING COMMISSION | There have been 17 inquiries into our Finance Sector since the #GFC and still no resoluton on 5-billion dollars in losses. Is this fair?? Time for a #BankingRoyalCommission 3/3 @ColinJBettles@swrightwestoz@westaustralian@australian@FinancialReviewpic.twitter.com/7kEgIRAHv6— Sen. Peter Georgiou (@SenatorGeorgiou) November 27, 2017
“I’ve had a long and personal interest to do with matters around banking and finance – particularly about the agriculture and primary production sector,” Senator O’Sullivan said recently in laying out his political strategy to succeed with his proposal.
Senator Georgiou asked Attorney General George Brandis a series of pointed questions about the way bank agents are treating vulnerable customers like farmers, culminating in a call for a Royal Commission.
“For the last five months, One Nation has held a Senate inquiry into the conduct of banks and receivers towards rural customers and the devastating impact their erroneous behaviour has had on families around Australia,” he said.
“This inquiry received 85 submissions and unearthed some disturbing and horrifying stories of dishonesty by bank appointed receivers and liquidators, farmers who have been left financially ruined.”
Senator Georgiou also asked a question about a specific case that’s been raised during the Senate inquiry around the transporting of 3500 thousand sheep from a property in Western Australia that he said should have cost around $15,000 – but instead, the receivers charged the farmer more than $90,000.
“What action is the federal government intending to take, and when, to make receivers and managers accountable for their actions, not to the banks that appoint them but to the parties they are administrating?” he said.
“There have been at least 17 inquiries into Australia's finance sector post the (Global Financial Crisis) including the government's own Ramsay report, which found that over 80,000 customers were affected - with losses totalling more than $5 billion.
“When will the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister wake up, show some leadership, act to stop this unlawful and unreasonable behaviour and hold a royal commission on the banks?”
But Senator Brandis rejected the suggestion and said the conduct of banks and, in particular, their treatment of a large number of customers - in particular, categories of customers belonging to “vulnerable groups” like farming - had been a “proper subject of national discussion now for some time”.
He said the question is, what can the government most effectively do to address the concerns?
“The problem with a Royal Commission is that it will take forever and achieve nothing…except for the bevy of lawyers who will be able to afford new beach houses on the strength of all the fees that they will charge,” he said.
“What we are doing is taking action that will be much more effective and immediate.
“We've set up a new one-stop-shop dispute resolution body to ensure that consumers and small business can access fair compensation straightaway - not years into the future after a Royal Commission that might go for five years but straightaway.
“We've introduced new legislation for banking executive accountability to make bank executives more accountable to their customers.
“We've introduced a major bank levy to ensure a fair contribution to budget repair from institutions that have benefited from our stable financial system.
“We've strengthened the resources and powers of ASIC, the regulatory body, through an additional $127 million invested in that body and introduced an industry funding model for ASIC.”
Senator Brandis said corporate insolvency practitioners were subject to “very, very rigorous regulation” under the Corporations Act.
But he said the level of fees and charges that are charged by receivers and liquidators and administrators “is something that should be kept under review”, and it is something that the relevant government ministers “do keep under review”.
“If there have been 17 inquiries, including parliamentary inquiries, since the GFC then perhaps that's a good argument why we don't need another one,” he said.
“Perhaps that's an argument that what we ought to be doing - as this government is doing - is to get on with implementing the recommendations of those 17 inquiries, which is precisely what we are doing.”
ACT Labor Senator Katy Gallagher also asked Mr Brandis to comment on Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce’s statement today indicating his party was 'only too willing' to consider a banking Royal Commission.
“Has Mr Joyce discussed his position with the Prime Minister?” she said.
Senator Brandis said he hadn’t seen Mr Joyce's remarks, “so I won't be commenting on them assuming, which is always an unsafe assumption, that they are being correctly attributed to him”.