Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:36): Senator Day, you have convinced me, and I will be supporting your bill.
On 8 September, amongst the other very wise words that I spoke in debating the Banking Laws Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill, I said:
I hope I am not verballing the National Australia Bank, but I thought I heard a report recently that the National Australia Bank had indicated that it was going to stop funding any fossil fuel investments within Australia. For 'fossil fuel investments' read 'coalmines', and where I come from, in North Queensland, coalmines are very important. They are big contributors to the economy, and they create lots and lots of jobs—jobs for mine workers; jobs for all the mine support staff and jobs for those working in the small businesses that support mines.
I said further in that speech:
As I say, if I am verballing them, I will apologise later. I read or heard somewhere that they were going to stop investment in coalmines. That concerns me because I understand how important coalmining is to Australia, to my state of Queensland and to the area where I live and that I represent in this chamber.
I said further:
I would be distressed if a major Australian bank had made a policy decision not to fund fossil fuels. That, to me, would be a bank simply trying to get a warm, fuzzy feeling and succumbing to the propaganda of the Greens political party—the party that says Australia, which emits less than 1.2 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, is the reason for all the climate change in the world.
I said further:
I hope I am wrong about the National Bank and, if I am, I will come in here and apologise to them. If the National Bank wants to invest in Queensland, it should be investing in coal mines.
As a result of that speech, no less than the Group CEO of the National Australia Bank contacted me and we had a meeting a couple of days after that. The National Australia Bank indicated that what I had said was not true and in fact that the National Australia Bank will continue to invest in coalmines. They indicated that they would send me a statement, which I received just this morning. I seek leave to table this letter, which I have given to the opposition.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I will read parts of the letter from the National Australia Bank to me:
The Australian Government's 2015 Energy White Paper was explicit in its finding of the need for the energy resources sector to have a strong pipeline of investment - NAB agrees with this finding.
NAB is committed to supporting the entire Australian energy sector. This includes NAB's ambition to be a leader and innovator in funding renewable energy. …
The paper also noted that Australia's overall energy production in 2012/ 13 increased by 9%, underpinned by an increase in coal production by 8% for that period; further, that coal fired electricity generation remains the largest source of electricity generation at 64% of the national mix.
Clearly, the coal industry is a sector of national importance and the National Australia Bank remains ready to support this sector in every appropriate manner.
At the bank's 2014 Annual General Meeting held in Brisbane, Queensland, Chairman Michael Chaney made the following remarks:
"There's comment around the place at the moment about whether banks should lend to coal mining companies and to gas companies and so on ... the finance sector in Australia has a serious responsibility to fund projects that are going to secure Australia 's energy future ... It's completely unrealistic to say (no one) should be funding coal mines for example, because coal has a really important place and role to play in the generation of energy in Australia."
This remains the view of the bank.
The letter goes on to state:
To be clear: NAB is not withdrawing its support for the Australian coal industry. With regards to the energy sector, NAB does not plan to implement 'blanket bans' based on geographies, nor does apply such bans to individual companies.
It is important to emphasise that global interest in the coal sector remains very strong, with financing for coalmining increasing from US$66 billion in 2014, up from $55 billion in 2013, and a 360 per cent increase from 2005. The National Australia Bank, along with the ANZ, Westpac and the Bank of Tokyo, in March underwrote a $1.4 billion refinancing deal for Whitehaven Coal, Australia's biggest independent coalminer.
I know how these green groups work, because I had firsthand experience of it a decade ago as the minister for forestry. These green groups like the ACF and the Wilderness Society seek meetings with banks and governments—
Senator McKim interjecting—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Gallacher ): Order!
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Don't worry about him—I enjoy it, Mr Acting Deputy President. It shows that in any debate the Greens can never bear to hear the truth. They get very concerned when their propaganda continues to be shown to be nothing but lies.
I had experience of how these green groups work years ago as minister for forestry, and the same applies now. These groups go to the bank with a particular request to have a chat about these things.
Senator McKim: Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I am compelled to point out to the Senate that it is actually Senator Macdonald that is on his feet doing the mea culpa here, and for him to accuse anyone else of lying, given the content of his contribution, is hypocritical.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, Senator McKim. Please resume your seat. Senator Macdonald, you have the floor in silence.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is again an example that whenever anything is said that undermines the Greens credibility—and that does not take much—they will take frivolous points of order that are not even points of order, simply to prevent me from pointing out the dishonesty of the claims by green groups, the left wing of the Labor Party and the Greens political party.
They have these meetings and they then go out and misrepresent the position of banks, governments or whoever they have had the meeting with. Then they speak to their friends, fellow travellers, in the ABC or the Fairfax press and headlines like this come up: 'NAB the latest to rule out funding Adani's $16 billion Carmichael coal mine'. The ABC story goes on:
The National Australia Bank has become the latest to announce that it will not fund the Adani company's controversial—
in their words—
$16 billion Carmichael coal mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin.
The fact that Adani did not ask the National Australia Bank or any other Australian bank for funding did not seem to worry the headline writer in the ABC or TheSydney Morning Herald, who made a big deal about the National Australia Bank not funding a coalmine that it had not been asked to fund. Good heavens! And so it goes. It is typical of the Greens political party, GetUp!, the Wilderness Society and the Conservation Foundation, who support them and keep them in this place, to misrepresent the facts.
So I am delighted today to be able to table the letter from the National Australia Bank, which refutes entirely the sort of rubbish and lies that are being peddled by green groups about the financing of coalmines. The National Australia Bank and any other sensible banking institution around the world will continue to fund coalmines, because they recognise that coal is an important part of the energy mix, and it is particularly important for poor people, underprivileged people, people around the world who do not have the standard of living that we have in Australia. Coal is the energy source that will help these people out of poverty.
I am delighted to be able to apologise to the National Australia Bank—as I said I would if I had verballed them or if I had misunderstood. But, if you see the headlines from the ABC and TheSydney Morning Herald, you can understand why I got the wrong impression. I am quite happy to say that I was wrong about the National Australia Bank. The National Australia Bank, like any other sensible banking institution, will continue to fund coalmining in Australia. That is great for Australia; it is great for our economy; it is great for our style of living; and it is great for the jobs that that wonderful industry continues to provide for our country.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Gallacher ): Is leave granted for Senator Macdonald to table that document?
Senator Lines: Yes.