Member for Moore Shane Love has called out banks closing further branches in regional towns, despite the recent announcement of a Senate inquiry that will investigate bank closures in regional Australia.
Mr Love said the closure of Westpac’s Carnamah branch this Friday 24 February leaves six shires in the region – a staggering 23,000km2 – with no bank whatsoever.
“Next week Carnamah residents will be forced to make a 260 kilometre round trip to find a bank in either Dongara or Moora,” he said.
“That flies in the face of part four of the Banking Code of Conduct which talks about banks being accessible and inclusive, and servicing customers in remote and regional areas.”
The Carnamah closure follows the closure of Wespac’s Wongan Hills branch last December.
Mr Love said the national exodus of banks from rural and regional areas came despite the November 2021 Independent Review of the Banking Code of Practice which recommended the Australian Banking Association (ABA) protocol on branch closures needed to be updated and strengthened, stressing that banks should consult with communities.
The second recommendation of the Regional Banking Taskforce which reported in October 2022, was that banks establish a process for conducting and publishing regional branch closure impact assessments, detailing reasons for the closure and customer engagement with customers and local governments.
“The Shire of Carnamah requested an impact assessment from Westpac last October and they’ve still not received one,” Mr Love added.
“While the Wongan Hills community were offered a fortnightly banking service and face to face support when Westpac closed that branch, the Carnamah community have had no such offer.
“They’ve not been given an explanation as to why their bank is closing.”
Mr Love said he had reiterated the Carnamah Shire’s request that Westpac delay the closure of that branch until the findings of the Federal inquiry ‘Bank Closures in Regional Australia’ are tabled in December 2023.
“As per the banking code, I have also requested Impact Assessments in relation to the Wongan Hills and Carnamah branch closures from Westpac but received nothing,” he said.
“The ABA say customers remain at the centre of all that banks do, but I beg to differ.
“Meanwhile we see numerous cases of ‘debanking’ in the regions.”