Banking royal commission welcomed by Charlestown woman

DETERMINED: Charlestown woman Michelle Matheson, who has been engaged in a long battle with the banking system, and who cautiously welcomes the royal commission.
DETERMINED: Charlestown woman Michelle Matheson, who has been engaged in a long battle with the banking system, and who cautiously welcomes the royal commission.

FOR Charlestown’s Michelle Matheson, the banking misconduct royal commission vindicates the struggles that she and many others have engaged in over the years.

As the Newcastle Herald reported in 2014, Ms Matheson has been fighting for more than a decade to keep the modest home she bought on a “low doc” loan from a “shadow lender”.

“I did have maladminstration – which is what the Financial Ombudsman Service calls fraud – proven in my case, but they apportioned half of the liability to me for not protecting myself,” Ms Matheson said on Wednesday.

“But I couldn’t protect myself because it took five years for me to obtain the full loan documentation showing where they had put in the fraudulent details. How could I have protected myself when they concealed all of those pages showing the inner workings of the loan for 5 years?”

Ms Matheson has worked with various consumer advocates including NSW Nationals Senator John Williams over the years, and says there is no doubt the big four banks and shadow lenders have engaged in mortgage fraud.

Ms Matheson’s case was the basis of a question to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in September last year, when he responded by saying that a royal commission would give her “nothing”.

Hansard shows Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon asked Mr Turnbull about a constituent named “Michelle”, who “was talked into a mortgage she could not afford by a dodgy financial adviser”.

“For the last five years, Michelle has worked three jobs around the clock to make her mortgage repayments and to keep her head above water,” Ms Claydon said.

“Will the Prime Minister explain to Michelle and the house why he continues to deny her a royal commission?”

Mr Turnbull said he could “well understand the concern and the distress” Ms Matheson was facing, but a royal commission would “be of no assistance”.

“She has a debt and she needs to find some financial compensation,” Mr Turnbull said. “She needs to seek justice.”

Ms Matheson said on Wednesday that pressure for a royal commission had grown so much that Mr Turnbull had no option but to agree to an inquiry, despite two years of denying one was needed.

“I’ve gone through the whole range of emotions since this was announced this morning,” Ms Matheson said. She said people would be “re-traumatised” by the narrow terms of reference but the banks had to be held to account.

“We are worried the term of reference saying the commission “is not required to inquire” into any matter already being investigated could be a loop-hole to avoid looking at individual cases, because lots have already been looked at, but unsatisfactorily, otherwise there wouldn’t be the pressure for a royal commission.”

Ms Matheson said she was also worried that she and others who might give evidence to the royal commission could still be “illegally kicked out of their homes” by the banks during the process.

She said there should be a stay on all disputed proceedings while the royal commission was taking place.