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Question: Regional Bank Closures

21 February 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional bank closures.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In the last session of parliament I asked the minister what action had been taken to avoid the closure of the Coober Pedy bank branch. It has since been reported that Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank have paused some of their regional bank closures; however, this has not included closures in some of our South Australian regional communities. The bank branch in Cooper Pedy has now been closed, leaving that town without a bank, and another branch, in Tailem Bend, is still slated for closure.

Meanwhile, some of our big banks are reporting massive profits. The Commonwealth Bank reported a $5.15 billion cash net profit after tax for the half year ending 31 December, a 9 per cent increase on the previous year. The National Australia Bank announced an 18.7 per cent increase in their cash earnings for the first quarter of 2023, and last November Westpac released data showing that their statutory net profit was up 4 per cent to $5.69 billion for the full year 2022 compared to the full year of 2021.

My question to the minister therefore is: since the last session of parliament what action has she taken to ensure that no more regional towns are left without local bank branches?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his questions. I do know, as we all do, that over many years now the larger banking organisations have taken resources out of regional areas, and quite rightly many people in those areas are upset. They rely on those banks and they rely on those services, and they have every right to be angry and upset. I think when large corporations take resources out of regional communities no amount of spin can make up for that. It can't take away from the fact that it does hurt regional communities and makes life more difficult and in many circumstances also makes business more difficult.

According to 2021 figures that I have—I have seen quoted on I think, who take a keen interest in highlighting the plight of regional banking—apparently South Australia was amongst the worst impacted states in terms of regional bank closures. However, as most people are aware, these are corporate decisions that are very much independent of the government of the day. Closures happened under the former Liberal state government, and unfortunately they will continue to happen under future governments as long as profit is put before people by these corporates.