by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
Oxfam Australia today launched a report entitled Banking on Shaky Ground– Australia’s Big Four Banks and Land Grabs, which pinpointed the involvement of four of Australia’s largest banks in illegal logging, forced evictions, food shortages and child labour.
Oxfam’s Associate Country Director, Mr Phillippe Allen, presented the report which was compiled over 12 months, and exclusively named ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank, and the Commonwealth Bank as contributors.
The Independent Timbers and Stevedoring Limited (IT&S), a small QLD-led company, has, in the past, prepared fraudulent contracts to deceive landowners into gaining SABL’s worth up to 2 million hectares of land.
ANZ Bank is the provider of its’ $240,000 Bank Guarantee and Oxfam urged action in eliminating risks of exposure to land-grabbing, as well as acting with zero tolerance towards similar such issues.
Malaysian logging company WTK, notably blacklisted from Norwegian investments, following irregularities in human rights and environment issues, shares a 19-year relationship with Westpac.
The company is presently in full logging production despite the Commission of Inquiry into SABL’s findings, that their lease was invalid and should be revoked.
Associate Country Director to Oxfam, Mr Phillippe Allen, mentioned that these fraudulent practices were ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ in pinpointing the many perpetrators engaged in illegal contracts and SABL’s.
Westpac welcomed the report and stated their zero-tolerance to ‘customers operating outside the law’, promising a review and possible expulsion of unworthy banking clients.
Despite this promise, Oxfam remains vigilant in pushing for more transparent policies, and prioritising a zero-tolerance attitude towards land-grabbing in developing countries. Despite ANZ’s serious take on ‘social and environmental concerns,’ they have declined comment on their customer relationships.
Oxfam plans to call out Australian banks operating in PNG in maintaining neighbourly relations and taking ethical financial responsibility towards the community. Diligent policies and zero tolerance to land-grabbing issues is an adamant step in ensuring PNG-Australian relations, and human rights.