It all started with a request for my email address from a good friend who lives out in Dubbo. Said he had information for me about a local family that was being screwed by the NAB. A few hours later, 5 emails came through, and one by one described the awful situation that a brother and sister were facing.
Claire and her brother Chris are 3rd generation farmers, on a property that has been in their families hands for over 100 years. Their property is a mix of cattle, wheat and cotton farming, surrounded by pristine nature, and bordered by the Macquarie and Barwon rivers, in the North West of NSW. This is their home. Now all of this is about to taken away from them. Surviving 9 years of drought, this is a family who couldn’t be destroyed by Mother Nature’s worst but now they find themselves about to be evicted by parasitic, immoral, impatient bankers from National Australia Bank.
In a time where most loans are around the 7-12% mark, NAB has made millions from the percentage gap on what we pay, compared to what they pay for the money – especially in this post GFC world, whereby banks can practically steal the money from the Reserve Bank, both here and the US Federal Reserve.
Yet, the opportunity to make even more money is always so very temping, and thus when the farmers came to them to assist, and at a time where there was the best opportunity to trade out of debt came from the sky in early 2010, when the Boxing Day 2009 rains finally broke the drought, they couldn’t help but take full advantage of the situation.
The rains gave these farmers, who provide our entire state with food, who have been struggling for so many years, an incredible climatic opportunity to address the debt bought about by nine years of drought. But the NAB told them to sell the farms without a crop in the ground or deal with the default rate of their 18% interest loan as they refused to advance anymore finance to grow crops when the drought broke 18%! Most credit cards aren’t that high these days. And this is after 9 years of drought, and a flood.
Because Claire and Chris refused to sell up before taking advantage of the best season to trade out of debt, they went ahead sowed the 2010 wheat crop. They then were then served Farm Debt Mediation that forced unreasonable obligations on them that did not take into consideration a Natural Disaster, because of this they breached their Farm Debt Mediation agreement (one clause being to repay $1million to the NAB by January 2011 based on the 2010 wheat crop). With help from local people they got by, and managed to not have to sell the farm in early 2010, they sowed the 2010 wheat crop which proved their viability by growing an 18,000 tonne (about $5million) wheat crop only to see it destroyed by the November 2010 floods.
If the NAB had assisted them to use the abundance of water that had returned to the Macquarie river because of the incredible season in 2010 they would have been able to use this income to make up for the loss of the 2010 wheat crop, however the NAB refused to maintain the farms, and in the same year the NAB assisted Cubby Station to grow cotton when it was in administration. At the time the NAB called in Chris and Claire’s loan. They were told they had 49% equity but it was of no use to them as they could not get finance to continue to grow crops. Refinancing was made impossible because it appears that once the NAB eliminates you and Farm Debt Mediation is served, other financiers are reluctant to assist, especially when credit was near impossible due to the GFC.
They were never in the financial crisis Cubby Station was in, yet they were crucified and blocked by the NAB of having any hope of running the land profitably as the NAB did for Cubby Station in 2010.
All options are being investigated to fix this situation, reluctantly they put the farms up for sale by auction on November 17, 2011 to show the NAB they had tried, they failed to sell and now the NAB are seeking possession. Usually a farmer is given the chance to sell again in six months and keep the farms running and using every environmental opportunity possible to bring income in until it is sold satisfactorily, but not in this case. Investors have been and are being sought; a community and equity partnership with the Aboriginal Community of Brewarrina and Walgett was very well received by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (who is conducting a feasibility study) and the NAB initially.
Cameron Clyne is the NAB CEO who is at the forefront of NAB Reconciliation Action Plan, and Glenn Brennan NAB Indigenous Affairs Manager, however, both seem to be full of talk and no action. This isn’t about not wanting to pay the money back. This is about being a farmer at the mercy of Mother Nature, and now of this prestitute bank, ironically being a main supporter of “2012 – Australian Year of the Farmer”, and making over $1.4billion profit in Q2 (Oct-Dec 2011) + record profits in 2011 – is unable to wait for the study to be completed(End April) and has given an earliest date of eviction of the 12th April.
The NAB has shown their determination in this matter, without a thought for the big picture. To not even wait 12 months for a full cycle of growth. To not even wait while the head of the family, their father, Gordon Priestley lay dying in hospital whilst they were also isolated again in the February 2012 floods. The NAB were requested twice to defer the Supreme Court proceedings as it was impossible for Chris and Claire to file a defence due to Chris being isolated on the farm due to the floods and Claire caring for her father in Dubbo and then Brewarrina Hospital where he passed away on February 19, 2012. They were also told that the DEEWR feasibility study into their Aboriginal proposal needed time to be completed by end of April, but they were told that the debt is out of control and the interest is accumulating too much and that Aboriginal projects take too much time, however they did not mention that the NAB are in a partnership with Indigenous Business Australia the main funding body for such projects..
And so while the NAB continued its relentless pursuit, they left their father in hospital to meet with a solicitor to see if he would represent them on February 20. Their father passed away while they were trying to get legal help, yet bravely, only the next day they attended court in Sydney where the Louis-Vuitton clad lawyer for NAB still showed no mercy, all the while her high-end labels cloaking the heartless corporation that lives beneath and clocking up legal fees Chris and Claire Priestley will have to pay. In addition to this, they have been trying to get Centrelink to assist them for living costs as when they asked the NAB for living money when their father was dying they were refused and told that the NAB had already been good to them.
This bank who promotes itself as “More Give, Less Take” is its own antithesis of what it promotes.
It’s time to truly understand and appreciate the integral work that our farmers do, and the challenges they face. The NAB claims this family has broken their contract, yet at the same time, the NAB is blatantly breaching theBanking Code of Conduct.
Today – 10th December marks a day they will never forget. The courts have judged against them, and they have until 9am to get out.
I don’t know what to do, how to help. I don’t know how they must be feeling. Devastation is an underrated word.
This all ties in with the Banking Code of Practise, and I can promise, NAB – You have not heard the last of us. You will be held accountable. You will be brought into the light. And you will be ashamed.