Bad Banks

15 May 2017

The University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU) Environment Department has raised concern over club funds being invested in banks tied to the fossil fuel industry.

This follows UMSU’s decision to disallow companies tied to fossil fuels from sponsoring SummerFest and promoting deals during O-Week.

Affiliated clubs and societies, according to regulations adopted in 2006, must open their bank accounts at on-campus banks. Under the regulations, the Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank (NAB) and Pulse Credit Union are qualified.

However, both Commonwealth and NAB invest in fossil fuel companies. The Commonwealth Bank has invested $20,590 million in fossil fuels since 2008. NAB, following the Commonwealth Bank as the third biggest investor of fossil fuels, lent $1,352 million to fossil fuel companies in 2016.

UMSU Environment Officers, Elizabeth Nicholson and Kate Denver-Stevenson, said they intended to change the regulation.

“We did a long-term plan to talk to the Clubs and Societies Department about it, and they are doing a whole bunch of new policies this year, so hopefully we can work something out with them rather than do a big campaign about it, as it will be much easier.”

Nicholson and Denver-Stevenson said they will propose to make ethical local banks also available for clubs.

“Ethical banks like Bank of Australia and Bendigo Bank both have traditions in supporting communities and smaller clubs, so it could be simple to explain club process, who UMSU is, and what kind of documentation that clubs need in the same way that I’m sure had to happen when clubs started to use NAB and Commonwealth.”

UMSU Clubs & Societies Coordinator Fiona Sanders commented on the Environment Department’s proposal, saying details will need to be discussed.

“The on-campus banks obviously provide significant proximity, and also understand the university context a little bit better than off-campus banks.”

“Our clubs get fee-free accounts at Commonwealth and NAB campus branches, and so we have to negotiate an equally beneficial arrangement for them. Sometimes its hard to get the club to change their signatories.”

However, Sanders said a well-considered solution is necessary rather than simply a call for change.

“Finding a solution is a good thing and we obviously have no reasons or desire to oppose that, but we also have to have a solution that actually benefits the 200 student groups and makes their banking possible.”

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