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Money Banking royal commission: Bob Katter interrogates commissioner Hayne on farming finance

04:00  27 june  2018
04:00  27 june  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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Bob Katter was flanked by a group of aggrieved farmers outside the commission hearings.© Provided by ABC News Bob Katter was flanked by a group of aggrieved farmers outside the commission hearings.

Federal MP Bob Katter is the latest politician to make an appearance in the banking royal commission's public gallery and he did not stay silent for long.

The inquiry is holding a week of hearings in Mr Katter's home state of Queensland, looking at how farmers have been treated by financial services firms.

Today's hearing began with an interjection by the Member for Kennedy, complaining that he could not hear senior counsel assisting Rowena Orr QC.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne admonished the interruption but it did not deter Mr Katter, who questioned Mr Hayne as the hearing later adjourned for a lunch break.

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"Are we going to address why these things happened and what we can do about it to improve it in the future — is the commission going to address those issues?" asked Mr Katter.

Commissioner Hayne defended the inquiry's approach of hearing evidence from case studies.

"Mr Katter, I've indicated the course I will follow … we're looking at these things at the moment through the lens of particular case studies.

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"There's a deal of work that goes on behind the scenes before, during and after and ultimately the fruits of that work are going to have to appear in my report and that's the way I'm going to have to deal with it.

"I understand your concern, you're not the only one who's concerned, Mr Katter. There's a lot of people out there concerned and I know that."

Outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court, Mr Katter was flanked by a group of aggrieved farmers.

More time for farming finance cases

In the first delay of the commission, Mr Hayne announced the scheduled hearings on natural disaster insurance would be postponed to September to allow more time to examine farming finance.

In the lead-up to this round of hearings, farmers were vocal about the amount of time allocated to the issue, which was set to be dealt with in less than a week.

However, the additional time within this round of hearings is to examine the case studies that have already been selected.

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"We've continued to receive information about the case studies in relation to farm financing … as a consequence some of those studies are going to take longer than we first anticipated," the commissioner said.

"It's important that they're done and they're done properly."

Natural disaster insurance will now be dealt with during a round of hearings in Melbourne in September, which will examine insurance more broadly.

The commissioner's interim report is due no later than September 30.

Farm finance will take up the rest of this week before the commission moves to Darwin next week, focussing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's interactions with financial services.

Farmer defaulted less than a month after heart attack

ANZ executive Benjamin Steinberg returned to the royal commission for a second day of evidence today and his stint as a witness is not over yet.

Counsel assisting Rowena Orr grilled Mr Steinberg over the bank's dealings with a number of former Landmark customers, who were moved to ANZ when it acquired to rural lender's loan book in 2010.

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In one case, a farmer was issued with a default notice less than a month after suffering a heart attack.

The third-generation farming family, the Harleys, had negotiated with ANZ over several years to try and reduce their debt and sell assets themselves.

However, their property — around 230 kilometres south of Perth — and their sheep flock failed to attract buyers.

When Mr Harley suffered a heart attack in 2013, Mrs Harley wrote to ANZ asking for the ill-health to be taken into account. Less than a month later, the bank issued a default notice.

ANZ gave the Harleys an extension to repay the loan, on the condition they vacate the property in one day if they failed to repay it by the deadline.

Mr Steinberg conceded the bank would not act in the same way today but maintained its conduct did not fall short of community expectations at the time.

"Was one day a reasonable period?" pressed Commissioner Hayne.

"In an environment where we've executed an agreement with a customer who's been advised of the ramifications of the agreement, I believe it is reasonable," Mr Steinberg said.

Mr Steinberg will be back before the commission on Wednesday to give further evidence.

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