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Wednesday, 7 February 2001
Page: 24152


Ms GILLARD (9:40 AM) —I rise today to raise an issue of concern to my electorate—namely, bank closures. My electorate is an outer metropolitan electorate. It is relatively large by metropolitan standards, and consists of a series of communities joined by the Princes Highway. Between those communities and within those communities there are very poor public transport options. As a result, the closure of any bank branch is really a crisis for the community, because it is often not possible for the people who use that bank branch to travel to any other part of the community or the electorate to do their banking.

Immediately prior to my election as the federal member for Lalor, there was a spate of bank closures in Laverton, which left that whole area without access to banking facilities. As a result of that, the local community banded together and, after a very long effort, managed to have opened a Bendigo Bank, a community bank. I would like to note today my congratulations to Joe Inserra, who played a pivotal role in that community bank being opened and who has been rewarded by being recognised as the Hobsons Bay citizen of the year.

Having said that, the bank branch closures have not ended. Since my election, we have seen two Commonwealth Bank branches that service the West Sunshine end of my electorate close, a Commonwealth Bank branch in Hoppers Crossing close and a National Australia Bank branch in Pier Street, Altona close. The Bank of Melbourne in Pier Street, Altona, is also closing. I wrote to Mr David Gutteridge, the general manager of the retail network of the Bank of Melbourne, on 19 December last year to put my voice of protest to that closure. I am yet to receive a reply to that letter. I think that really is unsatisfactory when the issue of that bank closure is of major concern to the community that works, lives and shops around Pier Street, Altona. On that occasion, I explained to Mr Gutteridge that there had been many other bank closures in my electorate and that the Australian community was tired of seeing banks make record profits at the same time as they walk away from any semblance of civic responsibility. Obviously, despite the record profits, the Bank of Melbourne is struggling to find the price of a stamp, and I have not had a response to that letter.

However, once again, what the big banks will not do for it, the community tries to do for itself. In Altona tonight there is a community meeting to explore the possibility of opening a community bank in Pier Street, Altona. I would like to offer my best wishes to that meeting. I am obviously unable to attend, because federal parliament is sitting, but I hope that some constructive plans come forward at that meeting to address the problem with the lack of banking options in Pier Street, Altona.