Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Regional Bank Closures

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:21): 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: Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Regional Development about what action the government was taking regarding the bank closure in Coober Pedy and in other regional towns. The minister responded that:

…South Australia was amongst the worst impacted states in terms of regional bank closures. However…these are corporate decisions that are very much independent of the government of the day.

This morning, the ABC reported that locals in Coober Pedy are buying safes and are scared of being robbed while driving 500 kilometres to Port Augusta to make major deposits after the closure of the town's only bank. David Kelly, the Chief Executive of the District Council of Coober Pedy, was quoted in the article as saying that people are 'feeling pretty anxious about being pulled over on the road and robbed'.

My question to the minister therefore is: in light of these reports, what action has the minister taken to ensure the safety of people in Coober Pedy trying to access banking services? Specifically, has the minister raised the issue with the Minister for Police? Have any additional resources been allocated to manage this problem, or does the minister simply maintain her view that this is a corporate decision, independent of the government of the day?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:23): I thank the honourable member for his question. I will certainly make inquiries with the Minister for Police. I haven't seen the article to which the honourable member is referring, but it may well be that the Minister for Police has done so. I think it's also worth mentioning that the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee of federal parliament is currently undertaking an inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia. They are taking submissions until, I think, the end of March. They intend at this stage to report by the end of this year.

I think that is also an important opportunity to make a number of these issues known, and I would encourage the honourable member, if he is in contact with people who are affected, to encourage them also to make such a submission. I think it's an important opportunity to be able to shine even greater light on the inconveniences and difficulties faced by people in regional areas when banks do close, and that the banks are constantly making these decisions. They are independent decisions, but they seem to take no account of the difficulties that they place on regional people when they do take these decisions.