Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, David Ridgway, will today introduce the Farm Debt Mediation Bill 2015 into the Legislative Council.
This Bill provides critical support to South Australia’s primary producers experiencing financial hardship by enforcing mandatory mediation between farmers and creditors before foreclosure.
“In essence the Bill will establish a process by which the banks are prevented from selling the farm out from underneath its owners without undergoing a process of debt mediation to see if suitable terms can be met,” said Mr Ridgway.
The Bill ensures:
- A creditor must not take enforcement action against a farmer until 21 days have elapsed after the creditor has given a notice indicating an intention to take enforcement action and of the availability of mediation;
- A farmer then has 21 days to notify the creditor that they wish to pursue mediation;
- Once a farmer has given notice, a creditor must not take enforcement action; and,
- If a creditor refuses to mediate a farmer may apply for a certificate of exemption (to the Small Business Commissioner) from enforcement action.
“This Bill will go a long way to providing financial security for South Australian farmers,” said Mr Ridgway.
“In the past we have had a voluntary mediation code which was quite successful but seldom utilised and now we’re effectively looking at making that mandatory.
“Primary production is the backbone of South Australia’s economy and at a time when some of our farmers are facing difficult conditions, we need to be doing everything we can to ensure they have the best possible opportunity to keep their farms operational.
“Food security and growing South Australia’s primary production exports are vital for the future prosperity of our State, that’s why we must ensure farmers are given every opportunity to succeed.”
Mr Ridgway also highlighted that similar legislation was in place in New South Wales and Victoria and had been quite successful.
“There has actually been an independent review conducted in response to the NSW legislation that showed in 72% of cases farmers reached a settlement,” said Mr Ridgway.
“Farm debt mediation is a tried and proven model and as legislators we should be doing everything possible to support our farmers.
“I look forward with working collaboratively with the Government and stakeholders during the upcoming consultation process.”