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Media Release

Australian Government operative leans on US banks for big coal

11 February 2015

11 February 2015

Documents released today through Freedom of Information (FoI) reveal that the Former Howard Government Minister Nick Minchin, a self proclaimed climate change ‘sceptic’, has lobbied at least one of the banks in the United States who last year committed to not finance the expansion of Abbot Point coal port.

A week after Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Citibank made statements that they would not be financing any expansion of Abbot Point, Mr Minchin, now the Australian Consul-General in New York, reached out to Wall Street to discuss the banks “investment position” over Abbot Point and “potential concerns over the Government’s management of the Great Barrier Reef”.

“The Government has been scrambling to save face over its handling of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, which has not been helped by recent approvals of vast new coal export projects,” Julien Vincent, Lead Campaigner from Market Forces said.

“The World Heritage Committee is contemplating placing the Great Barrier Reef on the World Heritage “in Danger” list, a place usually reserved for sites in war-torn countries or have otherwise had their unique status and value jeopardized,” he said.

“In the past year, nine international commercial banks have rightly made commitments to not finance the expansion of Abbot Point.

“This new information is the first sign that, behind the scenes, the Australian Government is attempting to influence the banks.

“It’s no surprise to see a political agenda driving these proposed coal export projects, as the proposals by the likes of Indian conglomerates Adani and GVK are clearly not environmentally or economically sound,” Mr Vincent said.

“But this evidence of lobbying raises some serious questions for how the Government is conducting itself over the Abbot Point expansion. Who was it that sent in Mr Minchin to pressure Wall Street? What was said in those meetings? And most importantly, who else has the Government been leaning on to support Abbot Point?”

“While international banks have found it easy to recognise that the expansion of Abbot Point is not a project worth supporting, Australia’s big four banks have refused to take a public position, despite tens of thousands of their customers calling for them to also rule out finance for the new coal export terminals.

“Are the major Australian banks being lent on by the Government to support Adani and GVK’s dirty coal plans? If so, the banks are basically being told to take on massive financial and reputation risk, all for the sake of the Government’s last century pro-coal ideology,” Mr Vincent said.

The FoI documents can be found by clicking here.