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No Queenslander should have to fear the banks again

Queensland parliamentarians bravely stood up to the big banks. Now we're calling on them to defend safe lending laws.

Last updated: 18 February 2021

It's been just over two years since the final report of the banking royal commission shocked Australians with the level of harm caused by the big banks and insurers.

No community has felt the harm of dodgy loans and insurance quite like Queensland. Queenslanders will remember insurers playing tricks with fine print after the 2011 floods through to the deep harm caused by rotten advice from Storm Financial in Townsville.

No community has felt the harm of dodgy loans and insurance quite like Queensland

Homes, farms, livelihoods, futures lost – all so those companies could squeeze more out of us, regardless of the consequences. When floods, fires and droughts hit, Queenslanders need these companies to step up and support local communities. But far too often they fail this basic test.

How Qld parliamentarians took on the banks

So it's no surprise that it was Queensland MPs and Senators who fought to get the banking royal commission up in the first place. Pauline Hanson, George Christensen, Llew O'Brien and Warren Entsch stood up to the banks and their lobbyists, applying much of the pressure that made the commission possible.

The state's own Bank of Queensland faced some of the harshest criticism at the commission and we heard stories of aggressive intimidation by banks. 

Cattle farmer Deborah Smith told the commission in her family's discussions with NAB "that if we didn't sign the documents they had then we would walk out of there with nothing but the clothes on our back".

If we didn't sign the [NAB] documents… then we would walk out of there with nothing but the clothes on our back

Queensland cattle farmer Deborah Smith

The commission's recommendations were roundly welcomed by affected groups. The Queensland Farmers' Federation noted there's long been an "unequal playing field" for farmers when dealing with the banks

But unfortunately political memories are too short, it seems, with moves currently in parliament by the federal government to repeal safe lending laws, against the very first recommendation of the royal commission.

Why we need safe lending laws

Safe lending laws are the simple checks that mean banks must make sure a loan won't leave you in trouble down the track. They're a vital check and balance on the banks, because, as we've seen, if left to their own devices, they'll never choose the best interests of Queenslanders. 

Repealing safe lending laws is a risk to Queensland's economic recovery out of COVID-19, loading people up with more unsafe debt instead of investing in the community.

'They lost homes, cars and their marriages'

At CHOICE, we asked our supporters to tell us about their experiences of unsafe lending. 

Michael, a TAFE teacher from Brisbane, told us, "I experienced the difficulties some of my students experienced from loans they would never be able to pay. 

"They lost homes, cars and their marriages, and relationships broke down due to the financial stress these inappropriate loans caused. Sadly, it was also the children that had to suffer."

Can Qld parliamentarians step up again?

Consumer groups are leading the charge to save safe lending laws with an open letter to federal parliament. Just as MPs and Senators from Queensland helped to spark the banking royal commission, now they have the power to protect its most important recommendations.

Queensland parliamentarians stood up to the banks and their lobbyists. Now we need them to stand up for safe safe lending laws – so no family, farm, business or Queenslander has to ever fear that the banks can use their power to unfairly threaten their homes and livelihoods.

Alan Kirkland is CEO of consumer advocacy group CHOICE.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.