Global ac­tion comes to Can­non­vale bank

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

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

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