DESPITE a successful trip to Canberra last week for a dozen WA farmers seeking to expand the terms of reference to the Banking Royal Commission, a petition has been organised to lobby Governor General Peter Cosgrove for changes to the inquiry, after the Federal government said it was happy with the way it was going.
On August 14, about 150 people gathered at the main committee room of Parliament House in Canberra where Bob Katter’s Australia Party senator Fraser Anning presided over a meeting that saw 35 stories presented by the victims of a financial service provider.
After hearing the evidence, Mr Anning rushed a motion before the Senate which received unanimous support.
Mr Anning said the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry had received more than 6800 submissions from across the country.
He said the royal commission was underfunded and did not have adequate time to hear submissions from many regional farmers and its terms of reference excluded “receivers, administrators and insolvency professionals who often act unconscionably and unethically towards farmers”.
Mr Anning called on the government to “facilitate the amendment of the letters patent to include examination of the conduct of administrators, receivers, controllers, restructuring advisors, turnaround advisers, pre-insolvency advisors or insolvency practitioners, particularly when these entities act against farmers”.
There was also a need to “facilitate the amendment of the letters patent to include the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation”, as well as to include “the dispute resolution process of financial service entities”.
“Extend the final reporting period by 12 months to enable the commission to hear more submissions and increase funding to the royal commission to enable it to hear more submissions,” Mr Anning said.
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, senator James McGrath, said that while established by the government, the royal commission was independent of government and “the specific matters that the commission may decide to examine will be the commission’s alone”.
“The Commissioner may, under provision (a) of the letters patent, consider the actions of anyone acting on behalf of financial service entities,” Mr McGrath said.
“The government would consider any request by the independent royal commission.”
Mr Anning said the motion passed was an expression of the will of the Senate to extend the royal commission and expand its terms of reference and he expected “Commissioner (Kenneth) Hayne will request an extension and will expand the terms of reference to include liquidators, administrator and agents of the banks”.
Rural Action Movement president Greg Kenney, Salmon Gums, attended the meeting prior to the Senate motion and said the result there was “an outcome that was roundly applauded by the many victims of service providers malpractice who had travelled considerable distances and at great expense”.
“However, in the aftermath of the motion being passed unanimously by the Senate, it seems the government is not going to extend the royal commission as they believe that it is doing an adequate job with its inquiry into the banking and financial services industry at present,” Mr Kenney said.
He said Lynton Freeman, from Cairns, Queensland and Bill Mott, Gunnedah, New South Wales, told their story at Parliament House and met with Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer.
They said that Ms O’Dwyer thought the commission was “doing a good job and will continue operating separate from government and she wouldn’t be nudging it in any different direction,” Mr Kenney said.
He said her response was if farmers felt they had not received justice to hire a lawyer and take the banks to court.
“She was adamant the royal commission will do the job sufficiently by the small number of case studies it has looked at,” Mr Kenney said.
“Ms O’Dwyer’s response is very out of touch.
“There is rarely any justice given to anyone taking on a bank and the cost is out of reach of most victims.
“The reason that farmers and business owners attended Parliament House and gave their stories was to highlight the inadequacies of the royal commission’s investigation of the financial service providers conduct.
“If they are not held to account for their behaviour by the royal commission then their culture will only get worse.
“If the government sits on its hands and does not implement the motion passed by the Senate and refuses to acknowledge the problem, then the government will be directly responsible for the culture within the financial services industry becoming significantly worse let alone ignoring the pleas of its grassroot farmers and businessmen.”
Mr Anning’s office is drafting the petition to try and influence the commissioner, who has the power to change the scope of the investigation.
Mr Kenney said the petition would receive widespread support from rural Australia.
The passing of the motion in the Senate was overshadowed by the response in the media to Mr Anning’s maiden speech which he gave soon after.
A website is being constructed called Bank Reform Now, which will host the petition for the public to sign to say they want the banking royal commission extended.