Bank closures ‘neglecting the needs of individuals’

THE ongoing closure of regional and rural branches was pushing individuals towards a cashless banking system, New Norfolk businessman and political candidate Ray Williams told a Senate inquiry at Launceston earlier this week.

“This unsettling development is raising concerns about discrimination against those who rely on in-person banking services and the urgent need for an alternative solution – and don’t get us started on the cyber risk,” Mr Williams said before giving evidence to the Senate inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia at its hearing in Launceston at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Tuesday morning.

“Banking branches are the backbone of many towns and communities,” he said. “Regional and rural banks have played a vital role in providing essential financial services. The closure of these branches not only disrupts local economies but also leaves many residents without convenient access to banking”.

Mr Williams, said the push towards a cashless society was neglecting the needs of individuals who were not well-equipped or comfortable with digital transactions. “The digital divide in our society is real, and these closures further exacerbate the disparities,” he said.

“In light of these concerns, there is a growing call for a better alternative – a citizen bank operated by the government through Australia Post. This proposed solution aims to bridge the gap created by the closure of regional and rural banks, ensuring that all Australians, regardless of location or technological proficiency, have access to secure and convenient banking services.”

Mr Williams is a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate for the Lyons electorate at the next state election. He said the party was advocating for a government-run citizen bank as a fair and inclusive way to meet the diverse banking needs of the Australian population.

“Such an institution could prioritise financial inclusion, community support, and accessibility, providing a lifeline for those affected by the closures of traditional branches,” he said. “The closure of regional and rural banks is not just a financial matter but a social and economic issue that deserves immediate attention. It’s time for a constructive dialogue about the future of banking in Australia – one that ensures equal access to financial services for all citizens.”

The federal parliamentary inquiry is investigating the current extent of bank closures in regional Australia, with reference to:

  1. the branch closure process, including the reasons given for closures;
  2. the economic and welfare impacts of bank closures on customers and regional communities;
  3. the effect of bank closures or the removal of face-to-face cash services on access to cash;
  4. 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;
  5. consideration of solutions; and any other related matters.

The committee is due to present its report to the Senate in May next year.

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