Junee is one of the first towns to benefit from a parliamentary call for banks to halt all planned branch closures until the Senate Inquiry results are reported at the end of the year.
A Commonwealth Bank media statement declared:
Following consideration of a request from the Senate Committee, CBA will not close any regional branches while the Inquiry is underway in 2023. As an additional sign of good faith, while the Inquiry is underway in 2023, CBA will postpone the closure of two branches already announced.
We continue to welcome constructive engagement with government, industry and communities – an approach demonstrated by our recent work with all members of the Regional Banking Taskforce.
CBA looks forward to assisting the Inquiry and continuing to engage with our customers and communities as we collectively respond to the digitisation of the economy and banking services.
Pressure is now on the other Big Four banks to follow suit, with ANZ having 13 branches slated for closure in coming months, N.A.B. six and Westpac 12. Three Westpac-owned BankSA and Bank of Melbourne branches are also being closed.
ANZ, NAB, Westpac and the Australian Banking Association (ABA) have all been asked to comment.
NAB has refused the Parliamentary request in a statement published today. ANZ said (via email) that it will cooperate with the Inquiry but has refused to comment on the moratorium request.
Westpac and the ABA are yet to respond.
Junee had mounted an intensive campaign to save its Commonwealth branch — the last bank in a growing town of more than 6,000 people. The closure had initially been scheduled for December, but issues related to access as set out in the Banking Code of Practice saw it put off until March.
He told Independent Australia:
Junee Council has requested that the Commonwealth bank reinstate five-day operational hours to Junee’s only bank. Junee will be making submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry into rural branch closures on behalf of its residents and other communities in regional Australia.
Banking is a lucrative business. The Commonwealth Bank's profits [almost] exceeded $10 billion last [financial] year.
It is absurd to think that since the release of the Regional Banking Taskforce report in September the Big Four banks have closed or listed for closure more than 90 branches. The Commonwealth Bank closed branches in Toormina, Umina Beach, Tannum Sands and Woodend. Those communities deserve better treatment and hopefully they might rally for their branches to be reopened.
The Inquiry into regional banking was announced on 8 February after passing through the Senate unopposed.
It has been referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, which will report by 1 December.
The terms of reference are to examine the extent of bank closures in regional Australia, specifically:
- 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;
- the effectiveness of government banking statistics capturing and reporting regional service levels, including the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) authorised deposit-taking institutions' points of presence (ADIPOP) statistics;
- consideration of solutions; and
- any other related matters.
Submissions close on 31 March 2023.
Dale Webster is an inaugural recipient of a Walkley Foundation Grant for Freelance Journalism on Regional Australia. She publishes independently through her own title, 'The Regional'. You can follow Dale on Twitter @TheRegional_au.
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