Rebekha Sharkie; ANZ Bank Should Stay In Lobethal and Goolwa

Sharkie alone.jpg

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is lobbying the ANZ Bank to keep their branches open in Lobethal and Goolwa, saying businesses will be disadvantaged by not having someone on hand to discuss financial issues or even organise change.

While some of the services can be done by the local Australia Post, Ms Sharkie says that's not good enough.

Ms Sharkie;s Tuesday night adjournment speech in the House of Representatives;

In regional areas there are certain facilities that are anchors in a community: the school, the footy club, the post office and the banks. So it was with a sense of indignation that I recently received a notification from ANZ Bank that it will be closing its branch in Goolwa on 15 October and its branch in Lobethal on 20 November. According to ANZ, these branches have to close because its customers are all using internet banking. Given what I know about Lobethal and Goolwa, I seriously question the validity of that reasoning.

Mayo is the oldest electorate in the state of South Australia. Lobethal is a town of 2,500 people. It is home to one of the district's largest retirement villages. In Goolwa, a town the same size but with a catchment of 8,000 people, residents aged 65 years and over make up more than half of the population. These statistics are important because, according to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2017, the gap between those who are active online and those who are not is becoming wider, and age is a major barrier. In the past five years the digital inclusion gap has become much wider between older and younger Australians, low- and high-income households, and regional and urban communities. South Australia has the second-lowest inclusion rate in the nation, just ahead of Tasmania. This is not to say that older Australians do not use the internet; they do. However, the evidence is that they don't use the internet for banking at anywhere near the same rate as younger people.

Closing a branch has a devastating impact on a community, and not just on older customers. A number of businesses have spoken to me about how losing their ANZ branch will cost them time, money and peace of mind. The argument that customers can go to the post office or travel 30 minutes to the nearest major centre for face-to-face services just adds to the accessibility barriers in my community. We are talking about businesses who handle large sums of cash, such as the local marina at Hindmarsh Island, restaurants, hotels and even the local council. All of them are now considering changing banks.

ANZ might consider us small fry in its corporate big picture but, if enough small-fry businesses band together, we believe we can make a difference. GE Hughes Construction at Lobethal is not small fry. This company employs 140 people and turns over nearly $30 million a year, using the local ANZ branch. That just might change. Owner Garry Hughes is so incensed by the proposed branch closure that he has started a community petition. Garry's a very busy businessman who supports locals, and he believes in building communities. He says: 'The world is more than dollars and cents. If we lose facilities like banks, families move away and it has a snowball effect on the fabric of the community.' I agree, Garry.

Lobethal is the branch closest to my home, and where I have done my banking for more than two decades. Lyn and the staff at Lobethal know the names of all your children. Now they don't have a job. Garry has been told that ANZ has made its decision and there's nothing he can do about it. Well, he's going to try and do everything he can. He is not going to lie down, and neither am I. Yes, banks are commercial entities but, let's remember, they are also supported by the Australian Government Guarantee Scheme. They are integral to our economic and social fabric and, therefore, they have a responsibility to behave as good corporate citizens.

In the 2016-17 financial year, ANZ made over $9.6 billion in profit before tax—an increase of nearly 18 per cent from the previous financial year. Over the same period, as part of its plans to downsize, ANZ's number of employees fell by more than 3½ per cent, to about 44,800. What sort of legacy is ANZ leaving this nation?

If it is not going to stay in a community and employ locals, why couldn't it, as a gesture of corporate responsibility, consider further digital literacy programs for local residents? Why couldn't it help our local councils to set up business hubs for those businesses left behind and so that new ones can possibly come into our communities?

I find it difficult to comprehend why the ANZ would choose this time to close branches. Given the damning evidence that has come to light from the banking royal commission, wouldn't it make sense to invest in regional Australia and not leave us high and dry? ANZ, you should be ashamed of yourself, and I urge you to reconsider the Goolwa and Lobethal branch closures.