The Finance Sector Union believes banking is an essential service and Australians have the right to transact their banking business in a way that suits their needs, wherever they live.
According to independent research by banking writer Dale Webster, 64 per cent of bank branches in regional Australia have closed since 1975. Only 1011 “big four” bank branches remain, largely clustered in major centres, and of the 1226 towns that had bank branches in 1975, only 370 have banks today.
Even worse, 589 towns that once had bank branches now have no banks left at all, not even a minor one. Another 84 towns are on the verge of complete loss of banking services with only one major bank branch remaining.
According to Ms Webster, in 2021, regional Australia lost 113 bank branches from the “Big Four” banks: CBA, Westpac, ANZ and NAB – 48 of those towns lost their last major bank and of those, 24 had no other minor banks to fall back on.
So far this year, the number of “Big Four” branch closures stands at 70, with 17 towns losing their last major bank. Of those, 11 have no other minor banks.
There have also been 43 minor banks closed (17 in 2021 and 26 to date in 2022), putting the total number of banks closed since the start of 2021 at 226.
Finance Sector Union national secretary Julia Angrisano said the union is calling on the Federal Government to inquire into the provision of local banking services, particularly in regional areas and supported calls for a moratorium on regional bank closures.
“The report tabled by the so-called Taskforce needs to be pulped and we need to start again. We need a proper inquiry, not just the banks talking to themselves”.
“Bank branch closures have a devastating impact on small towns and regional centres. Older people who are not computer literate feel the impact most as they are forced to travel longer distances to do their banking over the counter,” Ms Angrisano said.
“Closure of branches can impact farmers and local businesses, which are used to applying for loans and overdrafts at local branches.
“Don’t believe the banks when they claim customers prefer banking online. Our members tell us that the numbers of ‘over the counter’ transactions each day are counted up and once a limit is reached, customers are taken to a computer inside the branch or to an ATM outside and shown how to do their banking online.
“We want laws to require the banks to provide a minimum level of service to customers and stop cannibalising their local branch network.”
Ms Angrisano said the so-called Regional Banking Taskforce, which included the Big Four banks, the ABA and Australia Post, set up last year ahead of the Federal Election by the Morrison Government had been a total failure.
“We said from the start this was a political stunt by the National Party to help re-elect LNP members by giving themselves political cover on an issue of vital concern for people in country areas. The so-called Taskforce refused to hear from the FSU or our members. It held only a handful of meetings and achieved absolutely nothing.”
“It’s not surprising that this report fails local communities and the staff who work in regional branches. Not one of the recommendations will stop a branch from closing its doors.”
“It is more of the same, more self-regulation through a protocol that hasn’t worked and a branch closure impact assessment that the banks get to establish and conduct themselves.”
“The report says that better consultation once a decision has been made to close a bank branch is a fix to this crisis. This will do nothing at all to slow down and stop the rate of closures across regional Australia.”
“The report needs to be pulped and we need to start again. We need a proper inquiry, not just the banks talking to themselves.”
“The industry’s track record speaks for itself and we can expect more of the same – that’s more branches closing, more communities without banking services and bank staff without a job.”
“The banks have proven that they cannot be trusted to provide a decent level of service to our community, so it’s time for the Government to step in.”
“We are happy to see the back of this political charade but call on the Federal Government to conduct a proper inquiry into the future of regional banking.”
The FSU is supporting a petition to Federal Parliament Ms Webster is sponsoring, which can be signed here:
Media contact John Hill 0412 197 079