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Australia Drought-hit farmer 'shocked' by banker's comment

05:06  21 june  2018
05:06  21 june  2018 Source:   9news.com.au

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Central Queensland cattle farmer Debbie Viney claims her bank manager told her he would take his own life if he were in her shoes, in the middle of one of the worst droughts in Australian history.

Ms Viney said she met Rabobank executive Peter Stevens at a farm show six years ago, where he told her he could give her a cheaper mortgage than the one she had.

She took him at his word and switched to Rabobank, a multinational bank that specialises in loans to farmers across the world.

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a man wearing a hat: Debbie Viney claims her bank manager told her he would © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Debbie Viney claims her bank manager told her he would

At the beginning of the ongoing drought – the worst Australia has battled in a century – Ms Viney borrowed an extra $100,000 from the bank so she could sell off her stock.

However, she claims she soon received a call from Mr Stevens telling her that she had to stop as she was selling for less than bank valuation, and if she continued she would be put in receivership

Ms Viney said if she hadn't received that call, her property would have been fully de-stocked in time.

a screen shot of a person: A Current Affair has a copy of a recording which appears to support Ms Viney's claim. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd A Current Affair has a copy of a recording which appears to support Ms Viney's claim.

However, she said she has had to shoot "thousands" of head.

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Rabobank denies Ms Viney was told to stop selling off her stock.

She claimed she then confronted Mr Stevens when he visited for a property inspection, and recorded a conversation in which he said he would "commit suicide" if he took over her Longreach area property at that moment.

Ms Viney said she met Rabobank executive Peter Stevens six years ago. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Ms Viney said she met Rabobank executive Peter Stevens six years ago.

"I was shocked," she said.

"Why? Why even suggest it?"

Rabobank claimed that since Ms Viney approached them regarding the conversation, they have not been provided with any evidence of the recording, and requested a copy from A Current Affair.

a view of a city: Ms Viney claimed that after Mr Stevens' comment, she had thoughts of taking her own life. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Ms Viney claimed that after Mr Stevens' comment, she had thoughts of taking her own life.

"Rabobank takes this allegation very seriously," the bank said in a statement.

The day after Mr Stevens' visit, Ms Viney had to shoot a pregnant cow and had two bullets left afterwards.

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"I remember thinking, one of these and this will be over, and I was so sure if I shot myself, that was the answer," she said.

a group of people on a beach: Ms Viney claims she was forced to shoot thousands of her own cattle after Rabobank forbade her to sell them off. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Ms Viney claims she was forced to shoot thousands of her own cattle after Rabobank forbade her to sell them off.

Her son Darcey told A Current Affair she had said the thought passed through her mind.

He claimed he too had heard Mr Stevens' comment.

"It is not something to make light of," he said.

a person sitting on top of a grass covered field: Cate Stuart claims the bank bullied her and her family off their farm. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Cate Stuart claims the bank bullied her and her family off their farm.

Another Queensland grazier, Cate Stuart, has also criticised Rabobank after claiming her family were bullied off their farm.

The Stuart family purchased Mount Morris Station at Charleville 10 years ago.

They decided their herd would be too expensive to freight over from their old property, and decided to sell off their herd and buying another one at Mount Morris.

a sign above a store: Both the Stuarts and the Vineys were customers of Rabobank. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Both the Stuarts and the Vineys were customers of Rabobank.

Ms Stuart said the bank agreed to the idea, but just 10 days after their herd was sold, refused to let the family re-draw on their finances to buy any more.

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"I was absolutely gutted," she said.

"And we are graziers, a grazier without cattle is no-one."

a man and a woman walking down a dirt road: The Stuarts verbally confronted the receivers when they came on to the property. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The Stuarts verbally confronted the receivers when they came on to the property.

She said their account was frozen and, unable to operate, they were forced to default.

By October 2014 they were being evicted.

"They forget about us, but I won't forget or forgive what they've done," Ms Stuart's daughter Britt said.

a man standing next to a fence: Britt Stuart said she thought her life was over when they were evicted from their land. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Britt Stuart said she thought her life was over when they were evicted from their land.

"They stole my life."

Britt Stuart was just 21 at the time, and she said she thought her life was over.

"What part of picking out a tree and thinking about putting a bullet through your mouth, is looking for sympathy?" she said.

a man looking at the camera: Cate Stuart is now taking Rabobank to court. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Cate Stuart is now taking Rabobank to court.

"I didn't do it because I'm not going to let them win."

Cate Stuart is now taking Rabobank to court.

The bank has denied all allegations against it.

Bob Katter wearing a suit and hat: Federal MP Bob Katter said Australia's free banking was unprofessional and unrestricted. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Federal MP Bob Katter said Australia's free banking was unprofessional and unrestricted.

Federal Queensland MP Bob Katter said Australia had "the most unprofessional, unrestricted free banking".

He said mental health issues were a vital issue in rural Australia.

"There's a farmer committing suicide every four days in this country," he said.

a group of people standing in a parking lot: Farmers are battling the worst drought Australia has seen in a century. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Farmers are battling the worst drought Australia has seen in a century.

Farmers will take the stand at the banking Royal Commission in Brisbane next week.

Rabobank told A Current Affair it was cooperating fully with the commission.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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