The apparent refusal of some banks to lend to industries they believe are “socially sensitive” – such as firearms and live animal exports – has been condemned by AgForce as not only discriminatory but an irresponsible handbrake on economic and jobs growth.
CEO Mike Guerin acknowledged that banks needed to have robust lending criteria but said that singling out certain industries to suit ‘activist agendas’ jeopardised the agriculture industry when it was most needed.
“It is worrying that some banks appear to be compromising sensible and appropriate commercial decisions because of intimidation by single-issue activists, in some cases within their own senior staff,” Mr Guerin said.
“Australia’s financial institutions are vital partners in Australian agriculture, enabling farm businesses and the industries which support them to develop and grow.
“To jeopardise the immediate viability and, longer term, the capacity for growth of our agriculture industry at this critical point in human history on the whim of a minority is foolish – and also poor business sense.”
Mr Guerin said AgForce had approached the Australian Banking Association to address its concerns at a national level.
AgForce Cattle President William Wilson said that if banks ‘played’ to social politics, they jeopardised a multi-million industry that supported thousands of family grazing properties, tens of thousands of farm workers and ag tradies, and rural communities Australia-wide.
“Banks are not regulators, they are not the government and they certainly aren’t society’s moral compass,” Mr Wilson said.
“The industries we’re talking about are well regulated and operate at world best standard.
“For example, the live animal export industry is a major contributor to the Australian economy, helps keep our ag industry strong and viable, and provides people at home and overseas with access to quality, affordable animal protein.
“These businesses are happy to provide their banks with any information about their operations or their viability to enable sound, mutually beneficial lending decision to be made – but don’t want to be ‘singled out’ and penalised due to the personal views of a staff member.
“It is vital that banks do not base decisions that affect Australia’s food security and our ability to bounce back economically post-COVID on the views of radical groups that do not in any way represent the opinions of the average Australian.”