Senator Alan Eggleston

Speeches

28

Senator EGGLESTON (Western Australia) (16:29): I want to make a few additional remarks to those of senators of Bushby and Williams in regard to this report. The inquiry was essentially in two parts. The first examined the impact of the global financial crisis on the Australian banking sector, and in that we were reminded of just how resilient the Australian economy was. Senator Bushby has very largely dealt with that section of the inquiry. The second aspect of the inquiry, which interested me, as it did Senator Williams, was that the committee heard often startling and alarming evidence about the conduct of some players in Australia's financial sector around the time of the crisis and following it in dealing with mortgage holders. In submission after submission and testimony after testimony the committee received firsthand accounts of what can at best be described as unprofessional conduct and at worst criminal behaviour worthy of serious investigation by Commonwealth authorities. This was particularly with reference to the takeover of Bankwest and the use of so-called low doc loans.

The committee heard countless claims of how loan documents were altered and falsified; of foreclosure on multimillion dollar properties, as Senator Williams has referred to, literally overnight; of contradictory information and at times blatant lies, at other times a lack of action by the very authorities that were charged with protecting consumers and preventing misconduct. Low documentation or low doc loan facilities have clearly been misused and it would seem at times perhaps criminal activity in the form of fraud has occurred with the use of these facilities. I have to say that while there is no doubt that low doc loans fill an important role in accessing a proportion of consumers who would otherwise struggle to secure a loan, it was equally clear during the inquiry that the opportunity for abuse of this facility has been seized upon by some very unscrupulous operators. It is abundantly clear to me that everyday Australians have been wronged by organisations and people whose modus operandi raises questions about their ethics, and the question, as I said, of criminal behaviour arose on more than one occasion when documents were changed after they had been signed by the individuals.

Of the final 20 recommendations which were made, the most important was the recommendation for a widespread and independent root and branch inquiry into Australia's financial system. That has been referred to by Senator Bushby and I agree that it is very important and timely that such an inquiry is proceeded with.
In closing, I would like to thank those individuals who made submissions and appeared before the committee giving firsthand accounts of their experiences. I make particular mention of Ms Denise Brailey and Mr Geoff Shannon, who have proven to be competent advocates for those who have been wronged. Their selfless commitment is most commendable in the face of what too often was a David and Goliath battle.

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