Transcript - radio interview - 2CC Breakfast with Stephen Cenatiempo

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, PRESENTER: Let's talk federal politics with the Federal member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain. Good morning, Kristy

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Steven. How are you?

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, I'm all right. I mean, you know, if I didn't have the ACT Government to complain about, I wouldn't have a job.

MCBAIN: Well, the Raiders got a win on the weekend. That's one less thing to complain about.

CENATIEMPO: Well, I mentioned earlier this morning that I think poor Ricky Stuart must have smashed a mirror or walked under a ladder, though the injuries that he's had to had to put up with so early in the season. But he still kept the team together.

Now, you’re obviously concerned about regional banking in Eden-Monaro. But right across regional Australia, and even here in Canberra, we're seeing bank branches closing left, right and centre. What's being done about this? Now, I've spoken to members of the government about this before. There's got to be something we can do to maybe centralise these services and keep them alive.

MCBAIN: The statistics are pretty shocking. From the five years leading up to June 2022, we've had 677 regional bank closures across the country, which is a 29 per cent reduction in face-to-face services in our regions. At the same time, we've had about a 30 per cent reduction of banking presence in our metropolitan centres. The hardest thing for us though is we can't just head off to the next suburb. In many cases it’s a very long journey to get to your bank branch. I really see customer-owned banking as a brilliant opportunity for some of our communities to have that face-to-face presence. These institutions also generally sponsor and give grants back to the local community. We've had bank closures in Bombala, Cooma, Queanbeyan and Narooma, where we've seen the big banks pull out and say they just can't do it. But then yesterday, we've had a customer-owned banking institution open up in Bombala. The opportunity exists for people to shift their money and to look at which provider is going to give back to their community.

CENATIEMPO: I know that Australia Post can offer some banking services, but not all. Most localities are going to have a Centrelink office or a Federal Government office of some variety. Is there some scope for maybe creating one thing like what the New South Wales Government has done in their service New South Wales outlets? Is there something like this at a federal level that might be able to offer a place for these bankers to operate from, without having to have a full branch, so to speak?

MCBAIN: Many communities are asking for a face-to-face service, but also a professional that can give them good advice. Many of our small businesses really rely on their local banking institution for a range of issues, and sometimes we need a professional employed. Having said that, we're seeing some amazing things happen across the country. In North Queensland, we've got one council which is now hosting a bank branch within their building, just so they don't lose a presence in the community. We've seen communities rally together to get a provider in their community. For many of our communities, there is no Federal Government presence, there isn't a Centrelink, they don't have a Service NSW outlet. They're usually in our bigger towns, so our smaller towns are really leading the way in those types of innovative approaches. I was really interested to hear from the Community Owned Banking Association and a couple of the CEOs of those customer-owned banks about some of the things that they're doing to make sure that they can be available to smaller communities.

CENATIEMPO: Of course, the flip side of this is the big banks in particular aren't short of a quid. They're making record profits. Do we need to put in minimum service requirements? Do we have to legislate this? I mean, the telecommunications providers obviously have to provide a minimum level of service. Is it time that the banks have to do the same?

MCBAIN: We've supported an inquiry into regional banking and it's time for us to not only look at the things that we should be asking the banks to do, but also what's within government remit. That inquiry will be interesting, and will hopefully come up with a bunch of innovative recommendations. I travel to many small communities and banking is one of those big issues. Along with telecommunications, people want a face-to-face service.

CENATIEMPO: Speaking of telecommunications, applications are open for the Regional Connectivity and Mobile Black Spots grants. Are these going to be open to Coalition electorates as well?

MCBAIN: We discussed when I was last here that the first round is about fulfilling our election commitments, but there is an open, competitive grant round soon to open and we look forward to getting those applications from across the country. A really important focus is dealing with the First Nations communities’ telecommunications infrastructure. We know that those remote communities really do suffer and target 17 of the Closing the Gap report shows us that telecommunications connectivity in remote communities is by far the worst. Dealing with that will be a fantastic initiative.

CENATIEMPO: No doubt about that. Kristy, good to talk to you this morning. We'll catch up again soon.

MCBAIN: Lovely to speak with you.