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  • Writer's pictureDale Webster

The good, the bad and the ugly of regional banking in 2022

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Will any of them be getting cash for Christmas from Grandpa?

AS the year draws to an end it is time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly gifts given to regional Australians on the issue of banking services over 2022.

Closures since the start of January sit at 129 branches, with the majority of those (77) either shutting their doors or being issued with closure notices since Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones released the final report of the Regional Banking Taskforce on September 30 in spectacularly sneaky circumstances at 5.52pm on a Friday evening before a long weekend.

Mr Jones also makes the Christmas wrap-up for the most media inquiries ignored on the subject and wins “porky of the year” for telling ABC producers he was actually a member of the banking taskforce when knocking back yet another request for interview on the report.

(No Virginia, he wasn’t on the taskforce.)

It’s not all bad news for regional Australians though.

Finally – after 20 years – we have reasonably accurate government data on bank branch services after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) fixed the hundreds of instances of misreporting by the banks that had been skewing statistics for decades.

The errors – discovered during research for the regional banking expose Big four banks casting a dangerous shadow – were corrected over two editions of APRA’s authorised deposit-taking points of presence data; the first tranche in secret, the second (after we kicked up a bit of a stink) with full disclosure.

APRA’s gift to the banks involved was letting them off the hook for years’ worth of fines for breaches of the Financial Services (Collection of Data) Act 2001.

There is still much work to be done on this front, starting with getting APRA to publicly acknowledge all the corrections have been made so those who have quoted false data over the years, including journalists, can make necessary amendments to the public record.

Without this public admission the saga is destined for – as the office of Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has indicated – the new federal Independent Commission Against Corruption once it is established.

If it gets to that point, ICAC will also be asked to look at APRA’s inconsistent administration of data laws in relation to face-to-face teller services being removed from branches.

Moving on through our Christmas wrap-up, the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, hasn’t missed out on a present this year, but disappointingly, he hasn’t thanked us for it yet.

A petition containing 5000 signatures and asking for an immediate moratorium on regional bank closures, a new banking inquiry and the pulping of the bank-stacked Regional Banking Taskforce report has been sitting on his desk for months without a reply.

To keep busy while waiting for a response we have also gifted Dr Chalmers more than 100 #bankstories tweets that share the forgotten voices from the Regional Banking Taskforce submissions.

Hopefully, this will keep the issue fresh in his mind until parliament resumes.

His team at Treasury have been given two Freedom of Information requests: one for the draft of the Regional Banking Taskforce report as it stood at the change of government and another for any documents related to APRA and the correction of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank data.

Unfortunately they are a bit modest and keep returning them.

We will persist because we really think Treasury deserves the attention.

As Mr Jones, Dr Chalmers and the rest of the Federal Government colleagues make their last preparations for Christmas, will they spare a thought for people living in the 26 towns that have been left bereft of banks since the start of 2022?

And another 21 towns left bankless in 2021.

This number includes Mortlake, Wee Waa and Smithton where ANZ customers can’t even try their luck at getting cash from the local post office.

As the #bankstories continue to show, many people do not have the capacity or resources to bank online.

Many can’t leave their towns to get to a bank and many don’t have family or friends they could trust to do their banking for them.

“There is not one bank still open in our local area. How much cash will the supermarket give me? So far I’ve only asked for $100 each fortnight because there are still transactions to be paid in cash. Now for Christmas and gift giving I need much more because after two operations this year I’m not very mobile so cash will be for gifts.”

Lack of access to a bank or ATM adds a layer of complexity to this time of year that our politicians just don’t seem to be able to fathom.

Another submission summed it up perfectly:

“Someone screwed up. Closing the regional banks wasn’t the way to go.”

See you in 2023.

Follow @theregional_au on Twitter for more #bankstories

The towns left with no banks in 2022

Smithton TAS Braddon

Peterborough SA Grey

Yankalilla SA Mayo

Mannum SA Barker

Tailem Bend SA Barker

Kapunda SA Barker

Morawa WA Durack

Jerramungup WA O'Connor

Tannum Sands QLD Flynn

Umina Beach NSW Robertson

Woodend VIC Bendigo

Junee NSW Riverina

Toormina NSW Cowper

Mooroopna VIC Nicholls

Berry NSW Gilmore

Tocumwal NSW Farrer

Esk QLD Blair

Tin Can Bay QLD Wide Bay

Dysart QLD Capricornia

Bombala NSW Eden-Monaro

Holbrook NSW Farrer

Leura NSW Macquarie

Tom Price WA Durack

Wongan Hills WA Durack

Coober Pedy SA Grey

Carnamah WA Durack

Stories on The Regional’s website are free to read and always will be.

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