Agribusiness champion Bill Loughnan dies

Well-respected agribusiness lawyer Bill Loughnan dies, aged 66


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Bill Loughnan, the man who has been a confidant for many and championed plenty a cause for rural Queenslanders in his work as an agribusiness lawyer, has passed away, aged 66.

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Bill Loughnan worked tirelessly for the rights of rural people.

Bill Loughnan worked tirelessly for the rights of rural people.

Bill Loughnan, the man who has been a confidant for many and championed plenty a cause for rural Queenslanders in his work as an agribusiness lawyer, has passed away, aged 66.

As well as helping steer through some of the largest cattle property deals in Australian history, Mr Loughnan was the legal architect of the merger between the UGA, the Cattlemens Union and the Queensland Graingrowers Association that became AgForce.

His legacy includes the many legal documents he authored that are now used as precedents by lawyers involved in the sale or purchase of agribusiness assets, the negotiation of compensation agreements with mining and gas companies, and the negotiation of Indigenous Land Use Agreements with native title claimants on behalf of landholders.

News of Mr Loughnan's death from cancer was greeted with sadness by clients large and small that he devoted his 40-year career to, among them fellow Mitchell landholder Bim Struss.

Describing him as the overseer of his family since 1976, Mr Struss said the loyal client base Mr Loughnan had built up stretching the breadth of Queensland and nationally was testimony to the respect they had for his direct and enduring advice.

"He was a confidant to many people and gave freely to so many," he said.

Among the strong relationships developed with clients were a number that spanned three and four generations.

He will be greatly missed as well by his long-time work colleague at law firm Thynne and Macartney, Peter Kenny.

"When you've been in business with someone for 40 years and have remained friends for all that time, I think that says something," Mr Kenny said.

"Bill was the pre-eminent lawyer in the agribusiness sector for 30 years.

"He looked after the big corporates and the big families as well as working with a great many mum and dad operations, which were very close to his heart.

"He'll also be remembered as the mover and shaker on the big issues just as he will for training many of the up-and-coming young rural lawyers."

Rural beginnings

William Rainsford Loughnan was the third child of Kitchener Maitland Loughnan and Arlie Verle Nason of Rutland, Mitchell, and was born just before Christmas on December 22, 1952.

In Year 12 he was awarded a Commonwealth scholarship for tertiary study, after being educated at the King's School in Sydney.

He returned to study in Queensland but was often torn between his commitment to study and his obligation to assisting his father on the family properties.

The beef recession in the early 1970s helped make the decision to get a job in the city, but he always wanted to look after country people, which accounts for his lifetime dedication.

Ironically the Land Act, the legislation on which Mr Loughnan developed his entire practice, dealing with leasehold land, about 60pc of the state, scarcely rated a mention throughout his entire law degree.

He was offered articles of clerkship with Cannan and Peterson, a well-known law firm that specialised in agricultural matters and so became an agribusiness lawyer, which remained his focus for the next 40 years.

In 1979, at the age of 27, he was made a partner of the firm. He worked with a number of prominent lawyers including John Stephenson, Neil Dutney, Joe Milne, Tony Peterson, Alayne Peterson and Don Boyd.

One of the unique features of Cannan and Peterson's practice at the time was its visiting program to meet with clients at Longreach, Charleville and Roma, which was later expanded at Mr Loughnan's instigation to include Emerald and more recently Rockhampton.

Mr Loughnan participated in this program for decades, which was how he became a well-known advisor to many families and businesses in those regional areas, making lifelong friendships.

He was renowned for his direct advice. His influence as a negotiator on behalf of his clients was also well recognised in many of the major rural transactions of his era as an advocate in contested disputes in the Land Court.

His commitment to the people of the bush is reflected in his chairmanship of the National Party committee on rural policy for a time, as well as being the UGA lawyer.

He found the project to amalgamate the Cattleman's Union, the Queensland Graingrowers Association and the United Graziers Association to form Agforce and ensure the agricultural industry spoke with a united voice phenomenally interesting from both a structural point of view and because of the personalities involved.

In 2002 he led his entire team across to Thynne and Macartney, a long-standing but smaller firm, which he felt could give him a greater opportunity to serve his clients and play a role in leading the firm.

Mr Loughnan was also keen to ensure that Thynne and Macartney continued to prosper upon his retirement. Along with Peter Kenny, he actively mentored younger lawyers coming through the group, two of whom, Ari McCamley and Alex Ramsey, have since become partners.

Mr Loughnan chaired the partnership for the last five years of his practice, going to four days a week when he turned 60. He retired from full-time practice in December 2017.

Wide-ranging interests

Reflective of his desire to be involved in something of long-standing value to rural Australia, Mr Loughnan was involved in the establishment of the not-for-profit Wetlands and Grasslands Foundation in 2000, working for improved water conservation and land management, and was one of its inaugural honorary directors.

He presented seminars statewide on diverse subjects ranging from land tenures, native title, structuring businesses to wills and enduring powers of attorney, and invested heavily in the provision of detailed succession planning workshops throughout Queensland.

His own personal experience of family restructuring saw him focus a lot of advice on the latter.

He was instrumental in publishing A Legal Guide for Queensland Primary Producers at the instigation of the Queensland Law Society/ Law Foundation.

Few were privy to Mr Loughnan's private side. He met Stephanie Beale in 1975 and by 1976 they were married, celebrating 43 years in 2019. In time they had three children; Olivia, Matthew, and Andrew.

His family said he could be very strict, insisting that the children knew the value of a dollar, and that they worked hard to achieve their goals. But at all times they knew they were deeply loved.

Despite having a very busy professional life with his legal practice, Mr Loughnan was able to maintain a personal interest in his rural properties Arlington, with his brother Harry initially, and Wongamere, where he ran both sheep and cattle.

The couple took to retirement with the same commitment and zest with which they did everything in life.

A spokesperson said the family was heartbroken by the loss but was taking some solace in the love and support shown by all those who had respected and admired him.

Mr Loughnan's funeral service will take place at the Holy Spirit Anglican Church, Kenmore at 2pm on October 15.

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