New rural banking inquiry

The Federal Government will hold a new Senate inquiry into remote and rural banking services, to be led by Liberal senator Grant Chapman.

Although the inquiry has yet to determine its terms of reference, Senator Chapman said it's being held due to concern about rural branch closures and the future sharing of facilities by banks in regional areas. Coupling technology growth with declining rural populations means it's hard for banks to maintain a full presence in country regions, the senator said, so we have to look at alternative ways to serve the residents of these areas.

Banking groups argue that it will simply cover the same ground as the 1999 Senate report, “Regional Banking Services: Money Too Far Away”. But the Finance Sector Union's NSW branch said that recent closures mean that around 600 country towns now have no dedicated banking services. Between June 1991 and June 2000, almost 2,000 branches closed throughout the nation, according to the Reserve Bank.