My mother likes to quote an old saying, ‘all hat and no cattle’.
If I didn’t know better I would think the saying was invented for Akubra-wearing pollies who make fleeting visits the regions but do little in the Parliament to meaningfully change the circumstances of those who live and work in rural Australia.
If these members really cared about the regions, they would have acted on a December 2017 Senate Committee Report into lending practices to farmers that called for sensible reforms to rural finance.
This committee listened to harrowing stories from primary producers who lost everything because of bank lending practices.
This is unacceptable. The hat on the politician doesn't cut it anymore, which is why I introduced a Rural Finance Reform Private Member’s Bill into Federal Parliament last month that includes a number of the committee’s recommendations.
My legislation isn’t asking for special treatment for failing businesses.
The Bill is about giving primary producers greater transparency and more information when financial institutions make decisions about the conditions of their loan agreements.
Accurate information is so important, as farm businesses on Kangaroo Island know only too well.
I was chatting to member of Business KI at the Kingscote Show last year when they mentioned that banks had the impression that bankruptcy rates were higher on the island than the mainland, and it might be handy to have data on business survival rates when dealing with lenders.
My office did some research and it turns out the financiers were wrong.
There were 725 businesses on the Island in 2012 and in every year since until 2016 the survival rate of these enterprises has been higher than the state average.
The Island is comparable to many other prosperous regional areas in South Australia and shows more business longevity than many areas of Adelaide.
It just goes to show that when it comes to dealing with financial institutions, the more knowledge both parties have and the greater the transparency, the better the outcome for everyone.
Rebekha Sharkie MP,
Member for Mayo