Banking Royal Commission – Issues Facing Remote Communities

The Banking Royal Commission Round 4 hearings will focus on issues affecting Australians who live in remote and regional communities. The hearings will be heard in two locations:

  • Brisbane: Monday 25 June – Friday 29 June 2018
  • Darwin: Monday 2 July – Friday 6 July 2018

The hearing will focus on issues relating to:

  1. Farming finance,
  2. Natural disaster insurance, and
  3. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians’ interactions with financial services entities.

Challenges faced by Australians living in remote and regional areas

Australians living in remote and regional areas face significant challenges in their dealings with financial services entities. It is harder to access banking services as large banks find it “unprofitable” to open branches in remote areas. Even when they can, financial illiteracy can mean that consumers fall victim to higher bank fees, or are unable to manage their bank accounts.

This is particularly the case for indigenous Australians who are around twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be financially excluded.[1] Basic things that are easily overlooked in the city provide barriers to Indigenous communities in accessing appropriate banking services and products. For example, Indigenous customers frequently lose their bank cards as they generally see them as having little or no value, and sometimes they do not have the proof of identity documents ordinarily needed to access banking products and services. These seemingly small issues can prevent them from accessing basic banking services.

Challenges faced by Australian farmers

Another group of people that the Banking Royal Commission is concerned with are farmers. Many Australian farmers rely on bank loans to support their businesses, however, given their location they can face higher transaction costs. Another issue is that they may not have adequate instruments to manage financial risk. This is extremely important given that the agricultural industry faces seasonal fluctuations and can be prone to unexpected events.

For example, natural disasters such as floods and cyclones can have devasting impacts on farms and can lead to financial difficulties for farmers. Farmers, and other consumers, who purchase disaster relief insurance expect to be covered in such circumstances. A big problem is that it is the insurance company that determines whether a specific event is covered by the insurance policy. Consumers in the past have faced problems where their policies covered ‘storms’ but damage from floods or cyclones did not fall within this definition. If this is something that you have experienced, we encourage you to come forward with any useful information that may assist with the inquiry.

If you have been the victim of Banking or Financial Service misconduct, contact O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 for a confidential and free of charge consultation. If the Royal Commission calls you as a witness, we can apply to represent you on a grant of financial assistance.

[1] The Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC) Special Report: Access to Banking Services by Indigenous Customers.

Farming finance is one of the focuses of Round 4 of the Banking Royal Commission