March 4, 2022

AUSTRALIA: Officials Claiming You Were NOT FORCED To Get Vaccine. Blaming You For Being Injured. Thousands Of ATMs Removed, Branches Closed Across The Country As Banks Go Digital Since 2020.

Coincidence? I think not. They're moving us toward a cashless society. If they don't like you, or you said something they didn't like, they can just shut you off by cutting you off from your bank account like they did in Canada to the people protesting their tyrannical government. The tyrannical Canadian government froze hundreds of bank accounts and seized their assets because they were involved in protesting their government's unconstitutional covid19 draconian mandates.
(emphasis mine)
The Daily Mail, UK
written by Andrew Prentice
Monday February 28, 2022
As Australian banks continue to focus on digital transactions for customers, ATMs and bank branches are disappearing across the country, according to new data.

The analysis revealed close to 460 bank branches have shut down across the nation in recent years, and dating back to 2020, approximately 3800 previously active ATMs have been removed.

NSW alone now has 140 fewer in-store banks, and almost 300 suburbs don't have a singular ATM to withdraw cash.

It is a similar story in Victoria, where 120 branches have permanently closed their doors to customers.

'Closures have a devastating impact on local communities,' Finance Sector Union national secretary Julia Angrisano said.

'Jobs are lost, business is impacted, and another local service disappears.'

The closures have hit hard in regional and rural areas, and for older citizens, Ms Angrisano added.

Another key factor for the branch closures and reduced ATM's is the fact that banks are bringing in a small fortune from daily digital transactions.

As Australia accelerates towards a cashless society, fees from either the customer or vender for online banking have become common place.

In a modern-day digital world, an estimated 80 per cent of Aussies prefer to bank online.

But the remaining 20 per cent, namely the disabled or those who are not digital savvy, have been left stranded.

Tellingly, CBA now has 875 bank branches nationwide - compared to 1134 in February 2020.

Their number of ATMs has reduced to just over 2000 - in 2019 there were 4118 ATM's in circulation.

Last year, ANZ head of distribution Kath Bray said bank branch closures were a sign of the times, with digital transactions now the primary focus for many.


The Sydney Morning Herald
written by Andrew Taylor, Senior Reporter
Sunday January 30, 2022

Agold coin donation is a small price to pay to browse the stalls at the local markets held in the picturesque town of Molong in the Central West of NSW.

But the thousands of dollars raised by the Molong Advancement Group, a community organisation led by volunteers including Sue Wilde, has become a heavy burden since the closure of the town’s Commonwealth Bank branch last year.

Wilde, the group’s treasurer, is forced to drive to Orange to bank up to $3000 in cash raised from fundraising events.

“It’s a big safety concern because coins are heavy,” she says. “You almost need a trolley to carry it. It’s a lot of coins.”

Similar stories of inconvenience, hardship and safety concerns prompted the federal government to set up a taskforce last year to assess the impact of regional bank closures.

Data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority shows banks, building societies and credit unions closed 575 branches in regional Australia between June 2017 and June 2021.

More bank branches have closed in the past six months, including the Westpac in Morisset in NSW and Wendouree in Victoria. ANZ also revealed plans to close branches in regional Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory in early 2022.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said in a press conference in Mildura that the point of the Regional Banking Taskforce “is to come up with tangible expectations that we will be making clear to the banks on what regional communities expect”.

Sukkar said people in regional Australia should “within reason” have access to the banking services provided in major cities.

The federal government had the option, Sukkar said, of forcing banks to act “if we don’t see a voluntary movement in the direction that this taskforce is really directing the banks.”

Yet the major banks and their lobby group, the Australian Banking Association, paint a sunny picture of customers embracing digital banking services and shunning over-the-counter transactions.

A Commonwealth Bank statement says it welcomed the opportunity to work with the taskforce to continue to support regional communities.

“Our branches in regional Australia play an important role in delivering great service to our customers which is part of our commitment to maintain the largest bank branch network in the country.”

That view is not shared by Mary Mulhall, the president of the Molong RSL Club, who says the closure of bank branches was motivated by “pure greed”.

“When the bank announced their half-yearly profit I had a tear in my eye to think that the bank made all that profit and closed our bank,” Mulhall says.

The Commonwealth Bank had “no loyalty” to small regional towns and “no consideration for the impact the closure makes on people’s lives”, Mulhall says.

An issues paper released by the taskforce says the closure of bank branches can affect the liveability of towns, especially for residents who are unable to use online banking.

High transaction costs, inconvenience and extra travel time were among the other negative impacts identified by the taskforce. “If a person or business is forced to travel to the next town to do their banking, they are likely to buy other goods and services in that town as well”.

Rural communities are not impressed by the taskforce, with the issues paper labelled “quite insulting” by Berrigan Shire Council, which also questioned whether it “appreciates the financial, export-oriented commodity-based economic reality of regional and remote Australia”.

The southern Riverina council’s submission says banks offered incentives to retain profitable clients after they closed a regional branch, while abandoning the elderly, the disabled, the illiterate and other vulnerable and disadvantaged community groups.

SA and NT secretary of the Finance Sector Union Jason Hall says the taskforce was a “cynical attempt to buy votes and curry favour with regional communities”.

The closure of bank branches and pushing customers into digital banking has become a major cost-saving strategy banks use to increase their already massive profits,” he says.

A joint submission from consumer group CHOICE, financial counsellors and community legal centres called for a moratorium on regional bank branch closures, fee-free ATMs, more mobile banking services and specialist assistance for First Nations’ communities.

Bank branch closures have created “banking deserts” in regional Australia, the submission says. “Consumers, small business and community organisations are unable to conduct basic banking services in person, including establishing accounts, paying bills, depositing money or cashing cheques.”

A CHOICE survey of more than 6000 people found farmers forced to drive a five-hour round trip to access face-to-face banking services; older Australians having to pay a $3 fee every time they withdrew money; and people having to take time off work and losing income to conduct their banking.

The submission also says the use of cash remained important in regional areas, especially places with poor internet, to pay tradespeople, maintain a float for small businesses and for the operation of churches and local community groups.

With the rise in financial scams, there was a “deep sense of worry and fear” in the community about conducting banking online.

NAB executive general manager of retail Krissie Jones says the banking giant was spending money on improving its digital platform.

“Whilst our physical branch presence is changing, we will still be there for our customers – just in different ways,” she says.

Jones says the bank’s branch network had an important role for more “complex customer conversations” and “supporting customers with education on evolving digital channels”.

APRA data shows banks, building societies and credit unions cut the number of branches across Australia from 5816 in June 2017 to 4491 in June 2021.

More than 400 branches in NSW were closed between 2017 and 2021, while the number of branches in Victoria dropped from 1389 to 1085 over the same four-year period.

The number of branches in regional and remote Australia fell from 2471 in June 2017 to 1896 in June 2021.

There has also been a dramatic fall in the number of automatic teller machines in Australia from 13,814 in 2017 to 7757 in 2021.

There were only 5292 ATMs in Australia’s major cities in 2021 compared to 10,052 in 2017, including the removal of almost 3000 since June 2019. ATMs in regional and remote Australia dropped from 3762 in 2017 to 2465 by June 2021.

Over-the-counter transactions at major banks have dropped up to 68 per cent over the past five years according to the Australian Banking Association.

An ABA spokesman says banks were increasingly shifting their resources and investment from bricks and mortar facilities to digital customer channels as customers changed how they banked.

“Inevitably this shift in customer behaviour has seen the closure of branches in recent years with the vast majority of closures in urban areas,” he says.

Yet a 2021 survey of banking habits found 64 per cent of regional Australians did their banking online, compared to 32 per cent who visited a branch in the last month.

He also said there were more than 3500 Bank@Post services, including 1800 in rural and remote locations, that allowed customers to deposit cash and cheques, withdraw money, check their balance and conduct other banking services at Australia Post.

A Westpac spokeswoman says 84 per cent of consumer and business digital banking took place on a smartphone or tablet, compared to 68 per cent five years ago.

“Westpac continues to follow our customers by investing in the ways they are choosing to bank,” she says. “This follows a significant shift toward digital and cashless banking, and declining foot traffic in bank branches.”

In the past six months, Westpac has closed a number of branches in Sydney including Chatswood Chase, Frenchs Forest, Maroubra Junction and Wahroonga as well as Morisset on the Central Coast.

One-third of Westpac branches were in regional and rural Australia and “only a small proportion of closures occurring over the past two years have taken place in a regional setting”. Towns where branches had been shut had a Bank@Post facility, the Westpac spokeswoman says.

Wilde, who also runs the Molong Pharmacy, says the Bank@Post service was limited.

“If I want to renew a credit card, apply for a bank loan or talk to the manager, I have to go into Orange,” she says. “I used to do it all locally.”

Wilde says the closure of bank branches had a knock-on effect with people more likely to do their shopping in larger towns like Orange when they did their banking.

Regular two-hour round trips to Orange to bank has also taken its toll on Mulhall and the Molong RSL Club.

“The club has had to increase our insurance to cover extra cash and person in transit, wear and tear on a car, petrol, let alone the security of carrying larger sums of money,” she said.

Mulhall says the Commonwealth Bank in Orange was often crowded and understaffed with tellers who did not appear to understand her banking needs.

“With the closure of Molong and Blayney branches you would think they would get their act together with all the extra customers who have to bank in Orange now but ‘no’,” she says. “When you go to do the banking there is only ever one teller serving. The staff don’t seem to care that there are people lined up, and have been waiting in line forever.”

Mulhall, who is also president of the town’s St Vincent De Paul, says she is now forced to do the charity’s banking each day at the post office or find someone else to do it.

“Plus Vinnies has to carry extra change as we can no longer get change from the bank,” she says.

Bank branches have also disappeared from regional towns in southern NSW, with the Commonwealth Bank closing its branch in Finley and NAB shutting its branch in Berrigan. The NAB branch in Finley is open for three hours each day.

Berrigan Shire mayor Matthew Hannan says the loss of bank branches impacts volunteer organisations that cannot always use internet banking as well as small businesses and elderly people who may prefer face-to-face banking.

“If people travel out of town to bank then they are likely to spend out of town on groceries,” he says.

Berrigan Shire operates a Bendigo Bank agency from its office for a couple of hours on weekdays – although the council says it was not the role of local government to provide banking services.

Berrigan Shire’s submission says people had been “forced” to use internet and telephone banking during the COVID-19 crisis because “banking” was generally not considered a reasonable excuse for leaving home during various lockdowns.

Yet the council’s submission says regional and remote Australia suffer poor internet services and lower rates of digital literacy. Older people and the vulnerable were now reliant on neighbours, their family or strangers to assist them with banking services, exposing personal details and private information.

“Council’s experience has and continues to include, people requesting assistance through our libraries and through our customer service counter, particularly where family are no longer living in this community,” the submission says. “Changes forced on these citizens are thereby exposing vulnerable Australians to fraudulent use of their funds with no protection for any losses incurred.”

The council’s submission also says local businesses faced increased costs and inconvenience to access banking services, and were forced to hold large amounts of money at unsecured locations such as private homes until a trip to a bank – up to a two-hour round trip – can be made.

Rick Shaw, operator of the Finley Country Club Hotel Motel, said there was a “dying community” of people who preferred in-person banking. Shaw, also president of the Finley Chamber of Commerce said there were limits to the types of transactions that could be done at Bank@Post, and criticised the banks’ customer service as “dreadful”.

Maureen Walsh’s Outdoor And More clothing store is known as Finley’s “mini-Myer”, yet she receives a cool reception when she enters the town’s National Australia Bank.

Walsh says the bank discouraged over-the-counter transactions. “They’re trying to get people to use holes-in-the-wall and not use the actual bank.”

Walsh says banking options had dwindled in the town, with some customers forced to drive up to 45 minutes if they wanted in-person banking.

“We’ll end up going to another town where we can get services,” she says.

🚨👇 OTHER NEWS FROM AUSTRALIA 👇🚨 UPDATE 3/4/22 at 3:03pm: Added info below.


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