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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 13026

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (16:40): I rise to speak on a matter that is of great importance to the people of regional Australia. Sadly it seems that the long-established way we conduct business in rural areas, where a handshake and a person's word is legally binding, may be a thing of the past. Recently there have been a few notable circumstances where companies in rural Australia have been operating with a certain level of deceit, which is severely impacting businesses and individuals in my electorate.

Issues surrounding the cotton farm 'Benegerang', near Moree, owned by the company Medgun, have resulted in local businesses being owed more than $500,000, and it appears they will not see the money at all. Medgun is owned by Kepper Family Trust Investments and Andrew and Anna Bullard. It is understood that Kepper Family Trust Investments put the company into administration in January this year as they suspected fraud within the company.

Local businesses in Moree were informed, and practically guaranteed, by a consultant for the administrator Loewe Lippmann that they would receive payment for outstanding accounts. On the strength of this, several local businesses continued trading with Medgun under the understanding that they would receive payment for their goods and services. However, in August, Medgun was placed into administration, and then extended administration, and then finally liquidation. There was no deed of company arrangement; so, under corporations law, unsecured creditors would be unlikely to receive any payment. It is expected that the property Benegerang will be sold for a substantial sum of money but it appears very unlikely that these creditors will receive any of this.

Another example of this type of business practice is the case of the grain business Aust Asia Milling, in Young, which entered administration in July with a $9 million debt, owing one farmer in my electorate, Iain Tyack, of Condobolin, more than $180,000. The actions of this company are questionable. I would like to know whether Aust Asia Milling purchased grain knowing they would not be able to pay for it.

Actions like those conducted by these companies are not welcome anywhere, particularly not in the bush. Unfortunately, businesses in rural areas will have to be more careful and give due consideration when conducting their business because of the actions of the companies mentioned above.