As the eyes of the media and political classes have turned this week to the Australian banking sector, the big four banks are coming under a lot of scrutiny and pressure. There’s an opportunity in this for Australia to have a bigger conversation about the role of banks in society.
Governments take our votes and use them against us as the basis of their legitimacy to make decisions that destroy our soil, water, and air. That’s always made me irate: the fact that we put politicians in power so they can make decisions that are supposedly in our best interests, and they flagrantly break this social contract.
Yet the big four Australian banks use our own money, our own savings, to invest in projects that ironically destroy the basis of our livelihoods and prosperity – projects that pollute the air, water and soil that we depend on for our basic survival.
This situation is somehow even worse: the banks are using our own savings against our best interests. Perhaps it’s because our money, which we’ve earned over the years through hard work (and often immense stress), seems even more tangible than our vote. Perhaps because our own money is the last thing we’d expect to be used against us. The situation seems ridiculous, especially considering the amount of greenwash that the big four banks undertake.
I know people are worried about banks ripping them off through unfair interest rates or illegal penalty fees. I’m much less concerned about banks stealing my money than I’m concerned about them stealing my future. The real bank job is the one they’re doing on us.
So what can we do about it?
Greenpeace’s excellent Climate Banking Report, “Pillars of Pollution,” is worth a read. It reveals that while all four of Australia’s big banks are major financers of coal, ANZ is officially the dirtiest bank in Australia.
Over the past five years, ANZ has poured nearly $1.6 billion dollars into coal infrastructure and is the biggest financier of coal power stations and coalmines.
So if you’re an ANZ customer, give your bank manager a call! For more info and to sign up the campaign go to Greenpeace’s campaign page.