Shane Jones, in his usual rough-and-tumble way, yesterday waded into the Australian-owned banks for shutting branches in provincial towns.

While the banks mega-profits were on the up, their standard of service was on the down, and he suggested they should be under an obligation to provide an adequate service to rural areas.

Like me, the regional development minister, may have noticed how all bank advertising has a big spiel about putting the customer first; about the importance of offering a top-notch service; about how it is your bank and it's all about looking after you.

And, like me, he has probably realised this is absolute hokum. The banks only care about you insofar as you help them hand out big cheques to their shareholders around the globe.


They certainly don't care about those folk — often advanced in years — who are not dab hands at wheeling and dealing on the internet and who may need to visit a branch and get help from a staff member.

It is one of the more glaring examples of how the non-digitally-adept are being frozen out of society.

Not only are the banks guilty of hypocrisy in their advertising, and of deserting small towns, they continue to encourage people into debt as a way of enhancing their profits.

Getting people to live beyond their means and run up debt was the ploy used by the American banks which brought about the 2008 global financial crisis. You would think we would have learned a lesson from that catastrophe.

"It is not sustainable to enjoy a banking licence and the pleasure of ever-increasing super profits and turn your back on our rural areas," Jonesy said — and good on him.

We can at least be consoled by the fact that things are worse elsewhere.

Over the past two years, almost 50 Westpac, BNZ and ANZ branches have closed; in Britain, almost 3000 branches have shut since 2015.

The closure rate there is nearly 80 a month. Meanwhile, the big four in the UK — Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland — made profits of almost 14 billion pounds for the first half of this year.


As if that wasn't bad enough, police stations, libraries and swimming pools are also going under at a rate of knots.

So we can be grateful for small mercies ... and even more grateful if our banks started living up to their customer service claims.