Nineteen years since the last inquiry and the devastating branch closures in towns across Australia continue unabated, with more than 80 branches closed or with closure notices issued since September last year.
A successful motion put forward by Senators Gerard Rennick and Slade Brockman today has been referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by 1 December 2023.
The latest inquiry will examine:
a. the branch closure process, including the reasons given for closures;
b. the economic and welfare impacts of branch closures on customers and regional communities;
c. the effect of bank closures or the removal of face-to-face cash services on access to cash;
d. the effectiveness of government banking statistics capturing and reporting regional service levels, including the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s authorised deposit-taking institutions points of presence data;
e. consideration of solutions; and
f. any other related matters.
Senator Rennick said assessing the economic flow-on of bank closures for individuals, businesses and communities in regional Australia would also be a priority, along with the effect of bank closures and banking policy on access to cash.
“For rural areas where there are high levels of unemployment and an elderly population with a reduced capacity to travel, the financial and time costs of banking borne by the consumer are significant,” Senator Rennick said.
“In particular, I am concerned about the impact closing regional branches will have on local business and their inability to deposit cash. With youth crime out of control in many regional areas, businesses don’t want to be become targets of delinquents looking for some easy cash.
“Banks have a social licence to provide banking services to all Australians regardless of their location. They should honour it.
“The Regional Banking Taskforce, an initiative of the previous Coalition Government that brought banking representatives to the table, laid the groundwork for this inquiry, with submissions revealing a range of important economic, social, ethical and legal issues that need to be further explored.”
As well as Senator Rennick, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee comprises Senators Matthew Canavan (QLD, chair), Richard Colbeck (TAS), Linda White (VIC), Glenn Sterle (WA, deputy chair) and Peter Whish-Wilson (TAS).
The last senate inquiry into this issue was held in 2003-2004 and tabled the Money Matters in the Bush report.