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8 Feb 2019 - Interview with ABC Country Hour

8 February 2019
ABC QLD Country Hour


ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: And with the unfolding flood and weather disaster in that part of the world, the Australian Banking Association has moved to assure land holders their banks can help. Chief Executive Officer Anna Bligh says banks are standing by to speak to their customers to look at access to a raft of assistance. Ms Bligh says she's urging people to pick up the phone and find out how they can try to allay their fears about finances.

ANNA BLIGH: Australia's banks are very well practiced in working with their customers, large and small, when they are affected by devastating natural disasters. So whether it's floods, or fires, or droughts, there is a lot of experience in our banks. And they stand ready to stand side by side with people affected, and can offer really practical help. Things like deferral of scheduled loan repayments, waving fees and charges, that includes waving break costs on early redemption of farm management deposits, debt consolidation to help make repayments more manageable, offering additional finance to help cover cash flow shortages; and on a case by case basis, deferring interest repayments. So there are a lot of very practical things that banks regularly do for their customers. Again, whether they are large or small, when they are [indistinct] affected by natural disasters, banks stand ready to help.

ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Anna Bligh, how quickly will the application process be? Of course, we know the magnitude of what's happened in Townsville, but it's all just unfolding in that gulf country. Will it be streamlined as possible?

ANNA BLIGH: Banks put these ideas forward so that they can help people. And obviously, there'll need to a discussion, and there'll need to be assessments. But they will look to streamline this process as fast as they reasonably can. I think for many of those producers that are affected by this devastating and catastrophic impact on cattle, they will be worried not just about money today; they'll be worried about what happens next year and the year after. So these are often long term plans that have to be put in place and may require conversations all year. But I think banks stand ready to help and want to do that as quickly as possible.

ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Anna Bligh, you've touched on it there, obviously people will be thinking ahead, potentially refinancing and to the point of loans for restocking to rebuild their herds. With the balance of what's happened with the royal commission in mind, how open do you think banks will be to that?

ANNA BLIGH: Most Australian banks who lend in to the rural sector have dedicated agribusiness lenders, and they dedicate them because the nature of rural production is so different to a small business in a capital city. These agribusiness lenders are very, very well versed in rural production generally, but they often have a great deal of specialist expertise. I would expect that most of the farmers in this region will have a dedicated agribusiness contact in their bank who understands the cattle industry, well versed in world prices, and very, very well versed in the needs of what restocking might look like. So, as I've said, I encourage everyone of your listeners who may be affected to get in touch with their business lender, because that business lender does have tools in their tool kit to help get through times like this.

ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Anna Bligh, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association.

Contact: Rory Grant 0475 741 007

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