Eventually, the Commonwealth Bank had branches in every town and suburb; and in the bush, it had an agency in every post office or country store. As the largest bank in the country, it set the rates and set policy, which the others had to follow for fear of losing customers. The Commonwealth Bank was widely perceived to be an insurance policy against abuse by private banks, serving to ensure that everyone had access to equitable banking. It functioned as a wholly owned state bank until the 1990s, when it was privatized. Its focus then changed to maximization of profits, with steady and massive branch and agency closures, staff layoffs, and reduced access to Automated Teller Machines and to cash from supermarket checkouts. It has now become just another part of the banking cartel, but proponents say it was once the lifeblood of the country.
Today there is renewed interest in reviving a publicly-owned bank in Australia on the Commonwealth Bank model. The United States and other countries would do well to consider that option too. Any proposed legislation should contain careful checks for accountability. The Commonwealth Bank served Australia brilliantly well for its first 11 years under the stewardship of one honest man, Denison Miller. When he passed away in 1923, the bank was delivered into the hands of a board of businessmen more interested in serving their own interests than the nation's. Legislation would need to be drafted that prevented that from happening again.
Special thanks to Peter Myers for reproducing major portions of Jack Lang's book in his weekly newsletter.