Queensland’s agricultural sector is a critical part of the state’s economy, requiring access to high-quality support services, including banking and financial management products.
Banks provide a range of services to farmers that are essential in supporting their capacity to operate as successful businesses. Banking and financial services help farmers manage risk, improve efficiency, and increase profitability, ultimately helping them to grow and thrive as agricultural enterprises.
The continual contraction of banking services from regional, rural, and remote communities is of concern to business and industry operating in the regions. Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) recently welcomed the opportunity to provide comment to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport’s inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia.
In the coming decade, a substantial amount of regional development is tipped to occur, and it is imperative that banking services in these regions be expanded, rather than reduced. The recently announced Queensland Jobs and Energy Plan alone outlines an investment of $4 billion into the development of the state’s energy transformation with the bulk of this investment proposed to occur in the regions. This will create business opportunities throughout many regions and adequate banking services in these communities will be essential to support this anticipated growth.
Social license to operate is an increasingly critical consideration for all businesses, particularly big business. As a result, banking institutions must consider giving back to the regional communities that contribute to their profits.
QFF strongly recommends that the banking sector review their social license to operate mandates and consider how they plan to support the communities that are contributing to their profits.
QFF submits that the banking sector looks closely at the proposed growth forecast for regional Queensland and puts provisions in place requiring banks to show cause as to the appropriateness of reducing their presence in communities set to experience significant growth.
Rural communities rely upon access to adequate banking services to support a sustainable future for business and industry and to enable the realisation of their projected growth. Those living in regional and remote Queensland deserve equity in access to banking and it is critical that an appropriate banking presence is maintained to support the social and economic fabric of these communities that are so very important to Queensland.
With the pandemic’s workforce adjustments, remote work is now feasible and supports the retention of regional offices and branches. Whilst the banking sector continues to cite efficiencies as a reason for service contraction, QFF seeks banks to detail how they intend to service farm businesses, particularly those that may be considered small to medium-sized.
QFF urges the Senate Committee to consider the impact closing regional branches will have on the agriculture sector and broader regional communities. With higher levels of investment expected in the regions over the next decade, this would be a completely inappropriate time for banks to be reducing their presence. Rather, this is the time that banks should be planning to invest further in the regions to support their continuing growth.