Major bank reverses branch closure decision following KAP negotiations
REGIONAL North Queenslanders have been provided the guarantee of physical bank branches, previously slated for closure, following Katter’s Australian Party’s (KAP) negotiations with a major operator.
Westpac has reversed its decision to close branches in Tully, Ingham and Cloncurry, after it had stated in February the three venues would cease operating mid-May.
Following immediate backlash from the North Queensland communities and the KAP MPs, the major bank then agreed to “pause” its branch closures to engage in discussions, before it announced on Monday it would continue operating at Tully, Ingham and Cloncurry.
“This decision follows discussions with our customers, and community leaders such as yourself,” a Westpac spokesman said in a statement to Kennedy MP Bob Katter.
“I hope this decision gives you and your community certainty,” he said.
Mr Katter said he praised Westpac for its decision, ensuring regional Queenslanders would continue to have access to the essential service.
“Without banking there is no economy – you don’t have a local bank, you don’t have a local economy,” Mr Katter said.
“Banks create money and wealth providing an essential service, and if private corporations want to restrict the growth of regional Queensland, then we’ll establish our own people’s bank.
KAP leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said he was happy with the result of “this one battle” but there were larger issues that needed addressing.
“The banks have no legal obligation to lend to rural, regional, and remote communities and in many cases they don’t, or they apply far more stringent lending criteria than they do in the cities, and that’s why we’re calling for a state-owned people’s bank to facilitate economic prosperity and rural and regional growth,” he said.
“A bit like our governments, the banks often don’t tend to see the value of areas located out of the major city radius.”
KAP Member for Hill Shane Knuth said it was great news that the Tully Westpac Branch would not close.
“Many Tully residents expressed their concern to me over the last few months as a lot of the elderly don’t have access to online banking,” Mr Knuth said.
“The least they could do is provide their service to communities in regional and rural areas with direct one on one contact which also provides local jobs in that community.”
KAP deputy leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said the decision by Westpac to keep the Ingham branch open was a landmark win for banking customers seeking a reasonable level of service delivery from their financial institution.
“I commend Westpac for the decision to keep Ingham’s branch open. If Westpac’s closure had gone ahead, it would have been the fourth bank to abandon Ingham since 2018.
“Regardless of Westpac’s decision to remain open, the fight is not over. The federal senate inquiry into regional bank closures will continue and I look forward to attending the public hearing scheduled to take place in Ingham on the 18th of May.
“Hopefully the result of the inquiry will lead to legislative reform that deter other banks abandoning the regions in the future.”