There was an odd little occurrence at the end of October, 2020. The ANZ Bank came out and stated that it was supporting the transition to a net zero emission economy by 20501. Indeed, the ANZ’s exit from coal was inevitable as it was the last of Australia’s big four banks to do so. It announced it would cease lending to existing coal-fired power stations and coal mines by 2030 in order to reduce the carbon footprint of its loan book. It said it would also immediately cease funding new projects, boost lending to the renewables sector and introduce emissions reduction goals for financing provided to its 100 largest customers2. This is what many banks, insurers and other lenders are doing these days, and it seems that weekly another large institution joins them3.
Upon hearing this statement, the fifth most senior minister in the Morrison Government, Agriculture Minister and Deputy National Party Leader David Littleproud threatened the ANZ bank with “every lever at the federal government’s disposal – including the availability of deposit guarantees”. Littleproud added that banks should not be “society’s moral compass”4. Nobody could ever accuse banks of being a moral compass, and for Littleproud to make this statement he seems to intimate that politicians should be. Given that this is the most corrupt government in living memory, such an suggestion is risible. Littleproud continued with a bizarre deflection, suggesting that farmers would suffer from this new policy: “We can’t let unelected, profit-driven financiers from Pitt St dictate to society how to produce food and fibre or how we run our economy”. However, the ANZ’s CEO Shayne Elliott soon put Littleproud is his place, stating that the suggestion ANZ would be shifting support away from farmers was “absolutely not the case” and that “ANZ’s climate change statement is focused on the top 100 carbon emitters, and will have no impact on the bank’s farm gate lending practices”4.
Littleproud’s suggestion that deposit guarantees could be not made available to the ANZ was seen as such a threat, that Former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Bernie Fraser said it was a “ludicrous way of linking those two things together,” and that it risks endangering the confidence depositors feel in leaving their funds in the bank. Fraser continued: “The deposit guarantee was put in to stop runs [on banks] during the financial crisis and stop depositors taking all their money out and putting it under their bed and sending the banks broke, as happened in so many other countries.”. An unnamed banking source said Mr Littleproud’s statement was “risky” during a recession when there was already so much economic uncertainty.
What Littleproud’s outburst has also demonstrated was that the statement “There is no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change, globally, and its effect on global weather patterns, and that includes how that impacts in Australia … I have to correct the record here, I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government has always made this connection and that has never been in dispute” made by Scott Morrison earlier this year, was a lie. This is as you would expect from a person who seems to take his methodology from Donald Trump.