A newly established Senate inquiry has called for all banks to immediately cease closing bank branches in regional towns until a proper assessment is undertaken about their impact.
In recent months there has been a concerning number of banks close in regional Australia, Liberal-National Senators have established a new Senate inquiry into the current extent of bank closures across regional Australia and what can be done to ensure that bank services are provided to all Australians.
Referred to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) References Committee, the inquiry will look into the current extent of bank closures in regional Australia, including:
- the branch closure process, including the reasons given for closures;
- the economic and welfare impacts of branch closures on customers, and regional communities;
- the effect of bank closures or the removal of face-to-face cash services on access to cash.
Federal Member for Flynn, Colin Boyce is calling on banks to heed the call of the Senate Committee and stop closing local banks until local councils, businesses and affected customers can submit their concerns to this Senate inquiry,
“Banking is not just the sinew of commerce in regional communities but provides an essential service to those most vulnerable in the community,” Mr Boyce said.
“The closure of branches in the Flynn electorate in recent years has put undue strain on businesses. We are seeing businesses in small communities being forced to close during the week just so they can drive to a town with a bank.
“When the average age of a farmer is 58, it is simply unreasonable for affected customers in Flynn to be told to try online banking.
“While closures are typically a commercial decision, as a general principle, banks should look at the services they provide to country towns as part of their social licence and take into account loyalty shown by customers over many decades.”
Submissions to the inquiry close on 31 March 2023 and can be made by any member of the public.
Chair of the Committee, Senator Canavan is calling for the major banks to acknowledge the seriousness of this issue to regional Australians having a self-imposed moratorium on further bank closures in regional communities for the duration of the inquiry.
“Access to a bank can be a life-or-death factor for many businesses. I do not have confidence that our banks are properly considering these severe impacts before they have announced closures. Our Senate Committee calls on all banks to defer any decision on whether to close branches until they can hear from locals through this inquiry,” Senator Canavan said.
“The call for a bank closure moratorium has been backed by Senators from different political parties.”
The inquiry is expected to report back to the Senate by 1 December 2023.
Further information about the inquiry, including how to make submission, terms of reference, and public inquiry dates can be found here: Bank closures in regional Australia – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)
Submissions can be made by emailing: [email protected]