Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has roundly condemned the decision to close rural bank branches during an impassioned speech in NSW Parliament.
In her address last week, Ms Cooke was uncompromising in her reaction to the news that both ANZ and NAB are closing branches in Temora, Grenfell and Ardlethan.
Using the term ‘rationalisation’ to describe these decisions, Ms Cooke said such actions undermine the fabric of regional communities.
“When we talk about the erosion of commercial services in country New South Wales, we know that this is a heavy step on the thin shell that protects these small communities,” she told Parliament.
The big banks have claimed that their customers are changing the way they use banks, and that the companies are merely adjusting their business models to reflect these changes.
But Ms Cooke expressed no sympathy for such decisions when the fallout is so damaging.
“I care little for the march towards ATMs, internet banking and the justifications the big banks throw at us for these decisions,” she said.
“It means little to me when these corporations post billions of dollars of profit in one year, but the loss of jobs for people employed by these institutions and the impact this rationalisation will have on them as individuals and their families is immense,” she continued.
“These are small communities, and these specialist jobs are not in large supply. One family leaving is another tear in the fabric of this community’s existence,” she said.
“This is not good enough.”
One factor which is claimed to be contributing to the demise of small bank branches is the increasing use of internet banking, but Ms Cooke slammed the idea and said it left large sections of the community without a way to manage their money.
“There are elderly people who have lived in those communities for decades and are not internet savvy,” she exclaimed.
“They have placed their trust and savings in institutions such as these. They know the people they transact with. What becomes of them? Where do they go, and how do they get there? Notwithstanding the fact that we are at the mercy of scammers and cybercrime, what of the elderly?” she asked.
Ms Cooke called on communities in the Cootamundra electorate not to give banks the excuse to initiate more closures.
“I have another message for the people of our electorate: Forget convenience—walk into your bank and transact with a human,” she implored.
“Do not give banks, or any other large corporation, any reason to let technology and convenience be their excuse to let people go,” she added.
She ended her heartfelt speech with a bleak vision of the future.
“One day that silence might mean there is nobody left in these small towns. I do not think anyone in this Chamber wants to see that.”
MEDIA: Graham Springett | Madeleine Clarke 6924 2533