A government taskforce involving the big four banks, peak bodies, and Australia Post will examine the impact of regional bank branch closures on the local communities, businesses, and industries.
Regionalisation Minister Bridget McKenzie said it would provide a platform to determine how changes in the banking industry have affected regional communities.
“Having access to bank branches is vital for every community, particularly for residents who are unable to use online services to conduct their banking,” McKenzie said.
“As we have heard, bank branch closures in the regions also affect the liveability of towns, and so I am pleased to announce this taskforce will be looking at how we can keep banking services in rural Australia.”
The Regional Banking Taskforce will hold its first meeting in early November and release issues paper for public consultation.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) revealed in June that the total number of active ATMs across the country had fallen by around 20 percent since its peak in late-2016. The decline of independent ATM deployers was steeper during this period.
In addition, the network of full-service bank branches declined by around 20 percent, or 1,400 branches, over the decade to mid-2020.
“Banks have continued to close branches since this time; parliamentary testimonies from the 4 major banks indicate more than 220 branches have been closed or are due to close since then, and there have been significant branch closures announced by some smaller banks,” the RBA said.
It also found that around 1 percent, or 250,000 Australians, lived more than 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) away from their closest cash withdrawal location.
For Australians living in very regional areas, one-quarter had to travel over 15 kilometres, and 5 percent needed to travel over 100 kilometres (62 miles).
“At the same time, it should be acknowledged that travel distances are generally larger for all services in remote areas,” the RBA said.
The Australian Banking Association (ABA), one of the peak bodies in the taskforce, said Australian banks remain committed to providing bank services for every Australian, especially those in regional and remote areas.
“As the world we live in continues to become more digitalised, the way customers want to do their banking is following the same trend,” ABA CEO Anna Bligh said. “Banking online platforms and apps are so incredibly advanced these days, most Australians are carrying around a bank branch in their pockets.”