COMMONWEALTH BANK KIRRAWEE BRANCH CLOSURE
(Miranda) [5.18 p.m.]: I wish to update the House on the decision of the Commonwealth Bank to shut down its branch at Kirrawee, a suburb of the Miranda electorate. Kirrawee has only one bank, the Commonwealth Bank. It has been there for 38 years. The Commonwealth Bank has decided to shut the Kirrawee branch on 19 November. One shopkeeper described the bank as the drawcard to the area. Denise of Glens Real Estate said a lot of people go there to do their banking and shopping. She said it is a family shopping centre, and that all the shopkeepers know each other and get on well.
John Dau, owner of the Kirrawee Bakery, said closing the bank will affect his business. He also said, "I don’t know why they are closing it." Steve Samaras of Kirrawee Charcoal Chicken said people come from the factories to the bank at lunchtime and buy food from his shop. "The lunchtime trade will fall," he said. "This is a nice present from the bank just before Christmas!" Bert Thompson from Kirrawee Cellars said, "We need banking facilities here. Often there is a problem with EFTPOS, and we have to go across the road to get bank staff to fix it up." Shelley Eades, the local drycleaner, came to Kirrawee after the closure of the National Bank at Sylvania forced her to move her business. Now she faces the same problem again as the Commonwealth Bank shuts its doors in Kirrawee.
The business people of Kirrawee know the importance of the bank to their shopping centre. We are not talking about fly-by-nighters or footloose businesses. Here we are talking about business people who are well established in a shopping centre - the hairdressing salon, which has been there for 16 years, the pet shop for 11 years, the butcher for 10 years, the mower shop for nine years, and the hot bread shop for six years. I could go on and on. Today, a number of those shopkeepers left their businesses or employed casuals to enable them to attend the Commonwealth Bank annual general meeting at Darling Harbour. They attended with myself and residents of the Kirrawee area. We stood out in the hot sun, because we were not allowed by the large raft of Commonwealth Bank security guards to go into the foyer of the building.
Outside we protested quietly, holding signs such as "Save Our Bank", "Don’t Shut Kirrawee", and "Leave Kirrawee Open". That is how much the people of Kirrawee care about having a bank in their suburb. The Commonwealth Bank says that those people will not be affected by the closure of the Kirrawee branch. But, clearly, the shopkeepers of Kirrawee know otherwise. The bank tells us that the newsagency will provide some service to customers, but it will not provide business banking services to the shopkeepers of Kirrawee, who have been loyal to the bank for so many years. In the words of Cathy Pool, the owner of the florist shop, "Kirrawee will die."
Yesterday I hand delivered a letter to Mr David Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Bank, requesting a meeting. I trust that Mr Murray will meet with me and the shopkeepers, and not send a less senior officer to explain why the bank is being closed. What about the aged and the elderly? Mr Haworth, from the Healthsense Pharmacy at Kirrawee, said, "A lot of elderly persons use the bank. They have difficulty using ATMs and EFTPOS." Mr Viren Khetia of Kirrawee Pharmacy said, "A lot of elderly people live around here. They have been drawing their pensions here for a very long time."
On Monday I spoke to Doctors Nair and Findlay of Kirrawee. They told me that many elderly patients have attended their surgery very distressed about the closure of the bank. When Mrs Stella Whyburn, aged 87, went to make a deposit, she was shocked to find that her bank was closing down. She said, "It’s disgusting. We are all pensioners where I live and everyone will find it difficult." One senior citizen told a local reporter that she was so disgusted she would close her account and sell her Commonwealth Bank shares. The elderly of Kirrawee keep a large number of title deeds, wills and personal papers at the branch. These seniors are very concerned about the safe custody of their precious documents. One senior asked, "Where will they go?"
The shopkeepers, the elderly and families of Kirrawee are extremely concerned about the effect of the closure on their livelihood and their way of life. The shopkeepers took up a petition and collected 2,206 signatures from their customers in only the past week. That number represents about a quarter of the population of Kirrawee. The petition asks this House, amongst other things, to condemn the bank for closing this branch. I presented that petition to the House today, the same day on which the Commonwealth Bank held its annual general meeting in Sydney. At that meeting shareholders were asked to increase remuneration to the directors and executives of the Commonwealth Bank. That remuneration is linked to profit. Once again, it is profit before people.