Those living in rural, regional, and remote Australia know all too well how the lack of access to basic services affects their everyday life.
We constantly experience the fallout of decisions taken in metropolitan areas by those who have no affinity for life in our regions.
Even something as simple as face to face banking services have been impacted by decisions made by highly profitable corporate institutions based in our largest cities.
As taxpayers, we essentially underwrite a bank’s profits because, for the benefit of our economic security, they are deemed too big to fail.
In turn, the ‘big four’ banks have a social responsibility to maintain essential banking services for their customers, including those that live in regional Australia.
And while significant developments in technology have improved the capability of online service delivery broadly, as we all know, not all regional residents (particularly the vulnerable) have access to those digital services.
Nevertheless, banks continue to close regional branches and consolidate their branch networks.
In the last six months alone, 92 bank branches have either closed or were slated for closure in rural and regional Australia including in Kingston SE.
Unfortunately, the number of ATM’s in rural and regional towns has also declined significantly.
It has been nineteen years since the last Federal Parliamentary inquiry into Banking and Financial Services in Rural, Regional and Remote Areas of Australia, which is why the Coalition Government brought the issue back to the national conversation by establishing the Regional Banking Taskforce in 2021.
This Taskforce was a key catalyst for further parliamentary scrutiny, which was initiated by Coalition Senators earlier this month.
The Federal Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee are currently undertaking an inquiry into regional bank closures, including the branch closure process, the reasons given and the economic and social impacts of bank closures on customers and regional communities.
While this inquiry was established only two weeks ago, it has already had an impact with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, closely followed by Westpac (incorporating Bank SA) announcing that they would suspend planned branch closures while they cooperate with the inquiry.
This is great news for the Kingston SE community with the Bank SA branch in that community one of eight across the country that have received a stay of execution.
In a period of record profitability for the Australian banking sector, the decision to withdraw services from regional Australia is not only wrong, its unconscionable.
Bank Executives need to think long and hard about their commitment to rural, regional and remote Australians and my hope is that this parliamentary inquiry affords them the opportunity for some self-refection and a re-evaluation of the social licence they hold.