Australian Ethical has slammed Scott Morrison for having a short-term electoral cycle focus and disregarding the work funds are doing to invest for their members’ long-term interests, following the Prime Minister’s proposal to ban climate boycotts to the resources industry.
In an address to industry body Queensland Resources Council, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would be taking action against what he described as “radical activism,” campaigns pressuring companies to cease providing services to the mining and coal sector.
Mr Morrison bemoaned that banks, insurers and consultants have refused services to the resources industry as a result of climate activism through secondary boycotts.
In particular, Attorney-General Christian Porter has singled out activist shareholder organisation Market Forces, a group has that acted to pressure the major banks and insurers across environmental issues – its work has seen Suncorp and QBE exit thermal coal.
What the proposed ban on commercial and individual boycotts towards the industry would entail remains unclear, but Stuart Palmer, head of ethics at Australian Ethical has expressed concern that Mr Morrison’s positioning has attempted to shut down public debate around climate change as well as acting in stark contrast to a growing number of super businesses and investors, who are factoring for climate risk.
Wealth group Australian Ethical has worked with Market Forces, co-filing shareholder resolutions and consulting with companies – doing what both the Attorney-General and Prime Minister have highlighted as the type of activism “they don’t like," Mr Palmer noted.
“What are you going to legislate?” Mr Palmer said to Investor Daily.
“Why would you legislate against that? What would that legislation look like, to stop people turning up at the companies that they own, that they’re invested in and asking questions?
“It’s just bizarre.”
Australian Ethical has taken part in formal consultations with the government around different issues, having made submissions on climate policy, energy, human rights, modern slavery, agriculture and animal welfare.
Mr Palmer added that the number of consults around climate and energy policy as of late has been relatively small.
There is a greater trend in investing, where exposure is directed away from non-renewable energy. More than 100 major global financial institutions were found to introduce policies restricting coal funding earlier this year.
“I think that the horse has bolted. Companies, investors, communities, consumers are acting towards climate change because they’re frustrated that they’re not seeing that action from government,” Mr Palmer said.
“We’ve got to wake up to what is pretty obviously, is massive short-termism in the political world. So there’s always going to be this conflict you’ve got politicians focusing on a short-term electoral cycle, against superannuation funds investing for the long-term interests of their members, investing across the economy.
“Caring about what’s the best, most sustainable economic future for the Australian economy, the global economy – it’s obvious. We need to take action to limit climate change that requires long-term action and policy.”
He pointed to Adani’s Carmichael mine, where a number of banks and insurers have decided not to give any support insurance or funding.
“What they’re saying is, they’re doing it because it doesn’t make sense for their businesses,” Mr Palmer said.
“The economic opportunities for low-carbon transition has been far greater than the risks of hanging on to exposures to yesterday’s technologies and they see it as a risk to reputation in business as being enormous if they support projects which are increasing global warming.”
He added the government needs to set up a playing field where renewables have policy certainty about how Australia will implement its commitments under the Paris Agreement, of which a carbon price would be a “key part.”
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
You can contact her on [email protected].