QUEENSLAND Nationals MP George Christensen says exposing farm-related issues like the removal of National Livestock Identification (NLIS) tags in “cattle duffing” is one of the concerns underpinning a Royal Commission into the banking sector.
Mr Christensen has been one of the driving forces behind establishing the Royal Commission in threatening to cross the floor and vote amongst government policy.
But in a major backflip, the $75 million Commission was announced today by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and is due to make a final report in February 2019.
Mr Christensen told media today he’d set up a website asking people to sign a petition in support of a Royal Commission or Commission of Inquiry but it was “obviously” no longer needed.
But he said the website also provided a portal for people to submit their stories about banking misconduct and “we'll be passing all of those cases onto the Commission Secretariat”.
“But I've also had many cases brought to me before this, from local farmers, from small business owners, from mums and dads throughout the electorate of Dawson and beyond, that have suffered at the hands of the banks,” he said.
“There has been a wide and varied sort of examples of unethical conduct by the banks.
“I have seen cases where it seems clear to me that signatures of bank clients have been forged and clear evidence around that.
“I have seen clear evidence around believe it or not, cattle duffing, and the removal of NLIS tags, the tags that protect Australia's biosecurity, by banks and their agents, with the knowledge of the banks (during foreclosure proceedings)..
“I've seen multiple instances of these sorts of things and there's much, much more as I say, unethical behaviour, fraudulent behaviour and criminal behaviour, and I think a Royal Commission, if it's doing its job, will expose more of this.”
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Managing Director Richard Norton said each state government was responsible for the legislative framework that underpins and requires compliance with the NLIS.
He said any evidence of or relating to the removal of NLIS tags by or under the direction of a financial institution or anyone else should be immediately reported to the relevant state Department of Agriculture.
Mr Christensen said the Royal Commission would look into providing access to victims of banking misconduct, right around Australia.
“I hope there's a look at north Queensland, and regional Queensland where there's been many, many cases raised,” he said.
“I just don't understand why it took…a number of National Party backbenchers to drag the Prime Minister kicking and screaming to this decision.
“But we've got the decision, it's a good decision, and I'm hoping that this is going to be a thorough root and branch review of the banking sector.
“It's going to weed out these systemic cases of misconduct and perhaps criminal actions by big banks, and we'll get some justice for the victims of banking misconduct.”
Mr Christensen said the Commission “very welcome” for many Australians, particularly farmers, and small business owners that he was aware of who’d been victims of misconduct by the banking sector.
“I’ve seen an array of cases come through my office from people both locally in this (Dawson) region and from outside of my electorate where there have been quite clearly unethical actions,” he said.
“From the evidence that I've seen, fraudulent and even criminal actions – in most cases it's not just an isolated incident.
“This is systemic and why I have believed for quite some time, a Royal Commission, or a commission of inquiry, which has very, very immense powers, powers to have people appear, powers to actually force evidence to be produced, that was definitely needed and today we've got it.”
A Rabobank spokesperson said it understood the government's decision to establish a Royal Commission and is prepared to fully participate in the process.
Interim Nationals parliamentary leader Nigel Scullion welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a Royal Commission into banks and financial services.
“This comprehensive inquiry became necessary to restore trust and confidence in Australia’s banking and financial sector following years of concerns, particularly in rural and regional communities, about alleged misconduct and unethical behaviour by the banks,” he said.
“Despite the government putting in place a number of inquiries over recent years to examine and improve the conduct of our financial sector, it was clear there remained widespread community concern that only a Royal Commission could address.
“A Royal Commission will put an end to the uncertainty and doubts about the misconduct of our banking and financial services industries once and for all.”