Federal Member for Calare Andrew Gee has welcomed the Australian Government's establishment of a Regional Banking Taskforce, after pushing for an inquiry into the sector for many months.
The Taskforce will bring together representatives of Australia's six big banks, as well as peak banking bodies, Australia Post and the Australian Local Government Association to assess the impact of bank branch closures on regional communities. It will also explore avenues that will ensure banks continue to adequately service rural centres.
"I've been pushing for an inquiry into regional bank services for more than five months, following a spate of branch closures and service hour reductions in the Calare electorate," Minister Gee said.
"In June this year, I spoke in Federal Parliament calling for minimum service requirements to be placed on the big banks to ensure they stop betraying country communities and their loyal customers.
"In the months since, I've been canvassing support for an inquiry to be held into regional banking services. So, I warmly welcome the establishment of this Regional Banking Taskforce and implore everyone to ensure their voice is heard as part of the public consultation process.
"The Taskforce now needs to visit our region to hear first-hand how branch closures are impacting our country communities. I'm calling for it to do so as a matter of top priority.
"The banks have been shutting branches across our region at an increasingly rapid rate.
"This year alone, we've seen the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) pull out of Molong and Blayney, while halving opening hours at branches in Oberon, Wellington and Gulgong.
These big banks simply slash and burn ties with loyal regional customers, many of whom have banked with them for generations, have mortgages and business loans and built working relationships with the local staff.
"We all know the vital service the banks provide to rural communities. The impact of simply shutting up shop in our smaller towns is enormous. We don't have the luxury of walking a few blocks to access another bank. We're forced to travel to nearby larger centres to do the banking.
"While we've been locked down during this COVID-19 pandemic, the banks have closed, or plan to close, almost 300 branches - many of which are in regional Australia.
"We've had enough of being treated like second class citizens by the large banks. Our country communities deserve to have equitable access to banking services, and it's my hope that this Taskforce is an important step in ensuring this is the case into the future.
"Last year, more than 40,000 Australians left our capital cities to settle in regional areas. We know that as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, we'll see thousands more city people venture over the sandstone curtain in search of a more attractive lifestyle in regional New South Wales.
"We need to ensure that all our country communities are equipped to service not only our long-term residents, but also our new tree changers. The big banks need to realise that regional centres are growing and more than ever these communities need access to face-to-face banking services.
"The big banks are closing viable country branches to make ever increasing profits. We won't accept being treated as second class citizens by the big banks. To ensure this Taskforce is successful, it needs to hear from the people of our region. Let's make sure this Taskforce understands the real impact losing banking services has on our country communities," Mr Gee said.
The Taskforce will hold its first meeting next month, before releasing an issues paper for public consultation.
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