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Question: Regional Bank Closures

16 May 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: Data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has shown that the number of bank branches in South Australia has dropped from 421 in 2017 to just 127 in 2022. People living in the Limestone Coast, Murray and Mallee regions, Eyre Peninsula, Lower North, Yorke Peninsula and Mid North regions have all been affected by bank closures. On 12 May, the CEO of Kingston District Council, Nat Traeger, spoke to InDaily about the effect of bank closures on regional communities and stated that:

The effect of bank closures on business in our townships means that these businesses are unnecessarily exposed to overnight cash and security risks as they are unable to deposit their takings into a secure depository facility.

In many cases, the business owners will have to travel long distances and several hours with large sums of money, exposed to unnecessary travel and security risk, to deposit their takings at a major service hub that has a banking service. This is untenable for business owners.

InDaily also reported that in the Mid Murray region some businesses are losing a day of trade, having to travel long distances to make deposits. On 8 March this year, the Legislative Council passed a motion initiated by the Greens recognising the impact of the closure of banks on regional communities and in particular the impediment that this places on community and business activity. The motion called on the Malinauskas government to formally raise the closure of the Coober Pedy bank with Westpac and to advocate for the retention of bank branches in the regions.

My question to the minister is: has the minister formally raised the matter with Westpac and what action has the minister and the government taken to protect regional communities from bank closures since this motion passed the Legislative Council two months ago?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. I would also like to congratulate Nat Traeger and all those involved with campaigning in regard to the bank in Kingston. As the honourable member has alluded to, the difficulties experienced not only by regional residents, but regional businesses are considerable when indeed they do need to travel long distances, potentially with cash on them, and also the inconveniences that that has.

I am fairly confident I mentioned in this place earlier, possibly in response to the motion that the honourable member referred to that was passed on 8 March, that our government was writing to the federal parliament's investigation into regional banking, and that certainly occurred. Both the Treasurer and I worked together with our departments to be able to put in a submission to that.

It was really quite interesting in that, when I looked at a list of the submissions that were made, I am very sad to say that I couldn't see any submissions made by those opposite. I couldn't see any submissions to that national inquiry from the opposition here in terms of regional banking, despite what they have said in this chamber about its importance. I didn't see anything from the Hon. David Speirs. I didn't see anything from the Hon. Nicola Centofanti—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —or anything under the heading of Liberal opposition in South Australia.

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Attorney!

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: If indeed there was a submission made under some other name, then certainly I would be happy to be advised of that—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —but I think it is disappointing that, despite a lot of noise made from those opposite, they apparently have not bothered to take the time to put those towards the federal inquiry because, of course, the federal inquiry is looking at regional banking across the board and is able to hear about individual regions or individual towns most affected and is trying to look at solutions that would apply across the country. So that is the action I have taken in that regard.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: in addition to making a submission, has the minister written to Westpac and, if not, why not?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I have written to the investigation nationally. Interestingly, I couldn't see anything from the Greens to that national inquiry either. I'm happy to be corrected if the state Greens have made a submission as well, but I think it would have been really quite meaningful if all of us in this place—opposition, crossbench and the government—had made a submission because it was certainly something that was raised a number of times in this place.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: why hasn't the minister taken action following the resolution of this council? Why hasn't she written to Westpac? That was what this council directed.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I have outlined the action that I have taken.