Farmer forced to borrow from elderly mum
A WESTERN Queensland grazier who lost a property after the 2011 live cattle ban smashed the beef industry has called on governments and banks to create a more stable environment for Australian primary producers.
Mel Ruddy, who gave evidence at the royal commission into banking in Brisbane yesterday, said he was forced into borrowing $160,000 from his elderly mother as he struggled to keep his properties after the bank moved on him following the ban.
Mr Ruddy said his attempts to expand his operations, bank rolled by Bankwest, would probably have worked out if the Federal Government hadn't suddenly decided to stop the live cattle trade.
"If the Gillard government hadn't banned the live export trade and cattle had gone to $3.50 a kilo like they were last year, mate, I'd have been riding it out real good, it would have been a good decision,'' he said outside the hearing.
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry winds up its Brisbane hearings this afternoon after a series of financial horror stories from primary producers, some of whom were forced off their land after improper behaviour by banks.
Mr Ruddy, 68, a grazier from outside Charleville who has been working with cattle since age 14, told the inquiry he was encouraged to expand after receiving highly inflated valuations on his properties.
After moving his affairs to Bankwest in 2009, his properties were valued at $1.2 million and $1.1 respectively.
Those valuations were the basis for a decision by the Ruddy family not to sell one of the properties and consolidate, as they had planned, but to make more borrowings and invest further in their properties.
Mr Ruddy told the inquiry a bank representative had come to his property and said: "You have plenty of equity to draw on if you, you know, have a few bad years.''
Those property values plunged for a variety of reasons, including the suspension of live cattle exports, reducing the value of the properties to $750,000 and $900,000 respectively.
Mr Ruddy had to borrow $160,000 from his mother to keep afloat and was eventually forced to sell one of the properties, handing over 75 per cent of the proceeds to Bankwest.
Senior Counsel Assisting Rowena Orr, QC, asked Sinead Taylor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which owns Bankwest, whether the bank had breached the Code of Banking Practice in its dealings with Mr Ruddy.
Ms Taylor said she believed the bank had breached the code, and admitted there had been a problem with a bank employee who had over valued not only Mr Ruddy's properties, but properties of several other customers.
"All of the customers should have been told that there was an issue (regarding valuations),'' Ms Taylor said.
The hearing resumes this morning.