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Tuesday, 11 April 2000
Page: 15742


Ms GILLARD (10:48 PM) —The issue I seek to raise tonight is one of concern to the community of Sunshine, particularly west Sunshine, namely the planned closures of the Sunshine heights and Sunshine north branches of the Commonwealth Bank. Each of these branches is marked for closure on 5 May. I seek to address my remarks tonight to the problems raised by the proposed closure of the Sunshine heights branch, which is within my electorate and located on Glengala Road. This branch of the bank has been open for decades. It is now nestled within a lively strip shopping area. This area is home to a variety of shops, including a butcher, a drycleaner, a florist, a fresh fruit and vegetable store, a hardware store, a hot bread store, a pharmacy, a video store, three milk bars and three cafes and takeaway food facilities. The Commonwealth Bank is the only bank located in this shopping strip.

The proposed closure of the Commonwealth Bank branch would cause problems for customers and for the continued viability of this shopping strip. It should be noted that the Sunshine community faces considerable disadvantage. It experiences unemployment rates that generally run at more than twice the national average. Indeed, there are occasions when the small area unemployment statistics reveal Sunshine to have the worst unemployment problem in the state of Victoria.

Sunshine is a highly multicultural community and is home to many recently arrived migrants who make Sunshine their first home in Australia. And it is exactly this kind of community that Australian banks seem to have turned their backs on. Australian banks no longer want or are prepared to service customers who because of language, age or other difficulties may need greater assistance with their banking than most customers. Australian banks no longer want customers who have a preference for face-to-face banking. Australian banks no longer want customers who have low or modest bank balances.

Customers of the Sunshine heights branch in Glengala Road are being told that they can still access the Commonwealth Bank branch in Hampshire Road. Scant regard has been paid to the fact this branch is a bus ride away and that the bus stops on one side of an underpass while the bank is located on the other side. Consequently, customers face not only the confusion of the change and the problem of the distance involved but also the real safety issue of needing to walk through an underpass on the way to do their banking and on the way back when they may be carrying, as a result of having done their banking, an unaccustomed amount of cash. There seems to have been absolutely no regard paid by the Commonwealth Bank, in deciding which branches it should close, to these very basic logistical difficulties for the customers in west Sunshine.

In addition to the major problems caused to customers, the proposed closure of the bank branch jeopardises the future of the shopping strip in Glengala Road, which I have already described as a very lively shopping strip. Traders in other parts of my electorate who have had to deal with local bank closures—and I refer specifically to the bank closures which affected the Aviation Road shopping strip in Laverton—know from their own experience that a shopping strip which can no longer offer customers banking services has considerable viability problems. Obviously, as we all know from our own experience, people tend to make one trip to do their banking and shopping. If they are unable to access banking facilities in their local shopping area, they will make a trip to another shopping area where they can access banking facilities, and the local area dies. This of course has been the pattern across our suburbs, as we have seen strip shopping areas close in favour of larger supermarkets.

It seems to me that we need to put the considerable difficulties that the customers of the Sunshine Heights branch and the traders in Glengala Road will experience in context. The latest announced profit figure for the Commonwealth Bank was a half-year figure as at end December 1999, and that figure was $840 million. For the full financial year before that the profit was $1.42 billion. We can see from those figures that the annual profit for the last known financial year was considerable, and the bank will probably make more this financial year than last financial year. It seems to me that in those circumstances a bank which is recording such profitability figures ought to review the proposed decision to close its facility in Sunshine—it ought to reverse the decision. (Time expired)