Major bank postpones branch closure following KAP pressure and calls for State-owned service

Feb 16, 2023

Major bank postpones branch closure following KAP pressure and calls for State-owned service

Feb 16, 2023

A MAJOR Australian bank’s decision to pause its regional branch closures has been welcomed by Kennedy MP Bob Katter, who along with the Katter’s Australian Party has been strongly speaking against the financial  “abandonment” of regional Australia.  

Westpac has advised Mr Katter’s office it would postpone eight regional branch closures that were announced earlier this month, which included Cloncurry, Ingham and Tully in North Queensland.  

The bank told Mr Katter’s office it would make no further decisions on the branch closures while it engaged in a Federal Senate inquiry.  

“We’re deeply appreciative that we, the KAP, have achieved a pause,” Mr Katter said. 

“There’s real danger for the major banks with the KAP’s determination to proceed with the postal bank, following the courageous initiative taken by Christine Holgate, who was sacked by the Liberal-Nationals when she was trying to do this.  

“Whilst this is a small battle in a big war, we thank Westpac for its concisions.” 

State Member for Hill Shane Knuth cautiously welcomed Westpac’s “temporary pause” in its decision to close regional branches. 

“Many Tully residents have expressed their concern to me as a lot of the elderly don’t have access to online banking,” Mr Knuth said. 

 “Communities such as this rely on regional branches to provide a service and direct one on one contact and provides local jobs in the community. 

 “The reality is banks standing within the community are at an all-time low as they rack in multibillion dollar profits while cutting services.” 

KAP deputy leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said it was good to see the backlash from Westpac customers in regional areas was enough to pressure the bank into postponing its regional branch closures.  

“While it seems we have been a given a short reprieve here in Ingham, it is vitally important that regional Australia take this opportunity to be heard through this enquiry and I encourage every affected person to make a submission into the inquiry by the 31st of March, 2023.  

“We can only hope that the inquiry delivers overwhelming evidence that shows the important role that banks play in the regions. 

 “We have been shown little loyalty by the big banks over the years and I will always support the idea of a public postal bank that gives the big four a run for their money.” 

KAP leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said the aging population within the Traeger electorate was a concern that came with banks giving online only options. 

“The impending closure of the Cloncurry branch however to me seemed highly misguided,” he said. 

 “Cloncurry is a solid growth area, and for Westpac to have considered pulling a branch from that district shows a disregard for the regions.” 

 “We’re especially grateful to the strong leadership of the locals in Cloncurry for playing a big role in putting a holt to the decision.” 

 Westpac’s announcement comes after the Federal MP asked the Prime Minister during Question Time on Wednesday if he would provide a guarantee of banking services in regional parts of Australia. 

“Prime Minister, banks in Australia’s towns are closing. Treasurers Keating, Hockey and Swan averred the majors will always be underwritten by government. Will you support North Queensland’s industrial leadership in proposing a North Queensland postal bank, initiated by the KAP,” Mr Katter asked.  

Mr Katter also pointed out the hypocrisy of two Liberal senators whose party sacked former Australia Post chief executive Ms Holgate while she was attempting to form postal banks, and who were now calling for an inquiry into that very idea.  

“I note the curious inconsistency of two Liberal senators, who, in power, sacked Holgate, the person actually creating a people’s bank. Out of power, the two want to ‘look into it’.  

“Churchill observed: ‘Looking into it, you’ll only see yourself. How extraordinarily narcissistic.”