Farm debt Bill provides fairer deal for struggling rural sector: QLS says
23 March 2017
Queensland Law Society has applauded the introduction of new farm business debt mediation laws – saying the laws would level the playing field between farmers and the banks.
President Christine Smyth on Thursday (Mar 23) said the passing of the Farm Business Debt Mediation Bill 2016 was a great outcome for Queensland’s battling farmers as they struggled to cope with mounting and crushing financial pressures.
“Our farmers are already doing it tough and these new laws formalise a mediation process and protect them as they face dire financial hardship,” Ms Smyth said.
“In essence, the new laws provide a formal process for mediation between farmers and the banks to resolve the issue of mounting debt in a manner that provides the best possible outcome for all parties.
“QLS is particularly pleased our proposed amendments to the Bill were adopted to ensure protections for farmers were included in the new laws.’’
However, Ms Smyth said there were some administrative issues raised in the Bill that she believed would require further review and amendment.
The Bill, passed by Parliament on Tuesday, was aimed at ensuring mediation was provided to farmers carrying significant business debt and facing having to walk away from their properties.
Ms Smyth said amendments proposed by QLS and passed by the Parliament include the ability for the parties to draft and vary the heads of agreement and to waive the cooling off period if they wished the terms of an agreement to come into effect immediately.
“These laws also allow for a farmer to have more than one advisor present at a mediation and ensure that mediations take place at a venue convenient to the farmer,” she said.
“Previously many farmers were being asked to travel to metropolitan or regional centres – meaning their farms were left unattended, unworked and unprofitable while they attended mediations.
Another important amendment will allow a farmer and bank to participate in this process again if it does not include the same debt.
“We at QLS believe this Bill is a win for both the farmers and banks and strikes the right balance to ensure a fair and balanced outcome for all parties.”
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