Senate inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia extended
31 October 2023
Westpac customers in regional areas including Ingham, Tully and Cloncurry will have some further reprieve as the Senate Inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia extends into mid-2024. Earlier this year, the major bank announced that it planned to close eight regional branches across the country, a decision that infuriated customers and created a sense of abandonment in regional communities.
Public backlash about the decision prompted the Senate Inquiry as well as a decision by Westpac to temporarily pause the branch closures until the inquiry was completed. Originally, the inquiry was scheduled for completion in December 2023 however the timeframes have recently been extended. Submissions will now remain open until 29 February 2024 with the Senate report due in May 2024.
Hinchinbrook MP and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader, Nick Dametto said while it was a relief to know that the Ingham Westpac branch would stay open for at least a further six or seven months, the uncertainty for customers about the long-term future of the branch was unacceptable.
“Customers deserve some certainty about what the future will hold for their local bank branch,” Mr Dametto said.
“Ingham customers are only seeking one outcome and that’s for the doors to remain open so they can access face-to-face service from their bank. Anything short of this will result in them voting with their feet.
“The big banks have shown how disloyal they are to regional communities, in Ingham alone there have been three bank closures in the last five years. Customers shouldn’t have to continuously bank hop just so they can have continued access to their money and basic banking needs.
“Ingham has a large aging population and many would be disadvantaged to lose the face-to-face customer service and the independence that comes with attending to their own finances.
“Banks claim that closing regional branches allows them to focus more on their online and electronic customer base, but we all know that this is purely about cutting costs and a move to restrict the use of cash.
“Not all customers prefer or have the means to use internet or online banking and their needs shouldn’t be completely disregarded as an easy way out for the banks to make greater profits by slashing their overheads.
“Banks have a service obligation, it should be about convenience for the customer, not convenience for the banking CEO and boosting their seven-figure salary.”
There have been 567 submissions made to the Senate Inquiry to date and eight Public Hearings held across the country including in Ingham and Cloncurry.
Customers and stakeholders are encouraged to make a submission to have their say in ensuring that essential banking services in regional areas remain. The link to the Senate Inquiry website is as follows: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/BankClosures