A growing public outcry against the shift towards a cashless economy in Australia has culminated in a petition gathering more than 120,000 signatures.
The initiative, hosted on Change.org and called for 'An Australian cash and banking guarantee,' is demanding government regulation over banks that are eliminating in-person cash services and closing branches.
Westpac has initiated a 'co-locating' strategy, consolidating some locations of its subsidiary brands such as St George into existing Westpac branches.
Meanwhile, the other big four banks – Commonwealth, ANZ, and NAB – have established cashless branches, directing customers towards ATMs for everyday banking needs.
In addition, the big four have enforced restrictions on large transfers to cryptocurrency exchanges. Although banks justify these measures as a defence against scams, critics within the cryptocurrency community contend they are merely protecting their profits against competitors.
These developments occur against the backdrop of immense banking profits, exemplified by Commonwealth Bank's recent announcement of a record $10 billion annual profit.
The petition, spearheaded by Cash Welcome founder Jason Bryce in March, argues that the trend towards a cashless society leaves Australians without access to essential banking services.
Bryce explains that such a society not only excludes groups like the elderly but also diminishes the value of cash through fees, increases vulnerability to cyber attacks, and complicates budgeting.
"No Australian town, suburb or community should be left without reasonable local access to full banking services and physical notes and coins," the petition asserts.
Dr Chris Vasantkumar of Macquarie University further warned, "going cashless is privatisation of a public asset: money."
Personal experiences have also driven the demand for physical money. Bryce recalled his own financial management improvements after reverting to cash, stating:
"I found I ate better, because I wasn't just tapping to pay for that packet of chips."
The resurgence of using physical cash for budgeting, a well-known principle from the past, is gaining traction on platforms like TikTok.
Nicole Pederson-McKinnon, a finance commentator for Sydney Morning Herald, revealed a 35% reduction in spending after employing this method.
While the Reserve Bank has been monitoring the shrinkage of cash access points, there is no formal regulation at this time. This contrasts with countries like the UK, US, New Zealand, and Sweden, which have made strides to guarantee or reinstate cash access, recognising the potential harm to vulnerable populations such as the elderly and homeless.