A NSW government minister has encouraged people to “give two big fat middle fingers to the big four banks” after announcing branch closures, including at four Central West towns.
Banks have blamed the move on falling in-branch transactions and the rising popularity of internet banking.
However government MPs, including Tourism Minister Adam Marshall, unions and local councils have dismissed the argument, accusing the banks of putting profits ahead of people.
“Last year the big four collectively recorded a profit of more than $31.5 billion. Despite that, during that same period they closed 38 branches across regional Australia,” Mr Marshall said in Parliament.
“Our big four banks are amongst the most stable and profitable financial institutions in the world thanks to the considerable support and policy certainty offered in difficult economic times by the Australian government and Australian taxpayers.
“However, when times are good, they have no compunction in gouging resources, branches and employees from our small regional communities which can least afford it.”
Some towns affected by closures, including Forbes and Narromine, have other banks, giving customers the option to switch to a service that is still available locally.
However Rylstone and Grenfell will now have no local service and Western NSW Business Chamber president Vicki Seccombe said that could place extra stress on businesses in those towns.
“Bank closures in regional communities particularly affects our retail businesses and those businesses with cash transactions,” Ms Seccombe said.
“In some circumstances, businesses will be forced to do their banking in neighbouring towns or pay additional fees for a secure cash pick up – both of which are a cost to the business owner in time and money.
Ms Seccombe said she hoped other institutions such as mutual banks or credit unions may consider filling gaps left by bank departures in smaller communities.
The Financial Services Union said banks had an obligation to the communities that supported them.
“Banking is an essential service, especially in regional communities – and customers rely on their bank having a branch that they can access,” FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said.
“When a branch in an area like this closes, it hurts workers in areas where jobs are scarce, as well as the local community and its economy.”
Banks at Rylstone, Forbes and Narromine will close in May. The NAB hasn’t revealed when its Grenfell branch will close.