Global action comes to Cannonvale bank
WHEN Sandra Williams was a little girl, she had a Commonwealth Bank account “like every school child in Australia”, but today she wouldn’t bank there if you paid her.
“Why? Because I don’t want my money in any financial institution that invests in fossils fuels,” she said.
Ms Williams was one of about 30 locals who took part in a “run-a-thon” in front of the Commonwealth Bank’s Cannonvale branch last Wednesday, asking the bank to publicly rule out financing the Galilee Basin coal mining project and expansion of the port at Abbot Point.
Ms Williams said the Commonwealth Bank was rumoured to be in advanced talks with Indian mining company Adani, one of the proponents of an Abbot Point expansion, where industrialisation of the coast could “threaten the health of our local marine environment and associated livelihoods”.
“Australians don’t want to see the reef degraded, and once it’s brought to their attention their savings are used to fund environmentally damaging practices, they will look elsewhere,” she warned.
Though the group’s protest last Wednesday was designed to be peaceful, it was enough of a disruption to force the branch to close, albeit temporarily.
Fellow campaigner Hayley Sestokas said this was never the group’s intention, “nor did we block access”.
“(But) the one thing that’s crazier than sending millions of tonnes of toxic coal on barges through the Great Barrier Reef is believing that customers will stand by you after you’ve helped to bankroll such a disastrous plan,” she said.
“This campaign won’t stop until CommBank publicly rules out (these) projects.”
In May 2014, Whitsunday tourism operator Tony Brown travelled to Europe to put the same message before the global financial power houses of the Deutsche Bank, Société Generale and HSBC.
During his visit, the Deutsche Bank announced it would not consider any fi- nancing requests without assurances from both the government and UNESCO that the projects would not adversely affect the World Heritage site. Less than 24 hours later, HSBC followed suit.
Since that time, environmental groups have stepped up pressure on Australia’s “big four” banks to follow their international counterparts’ lead.
DELIVERING A MESSAGE: Sarah Chao, Eileen Davies, Christy Horton, Sandra Williams and Bridgette Steinbaluer are among those who want Australia's Big 4 banks to say they will not finance fossil fuels. Photo: Contributed