Navigating Through the Maze – Divestment from the Detention Industry

For those thinking about putting motions to their union branch to call for divestment of their industry Super Fund or similar, bear in mind that a concise call for complete divestment does the job. Inaccurate or misleading details are not helpful.

Legal and financial jargon can easily distract, confuse and derail. Don’t assume someone understands that jargon just because they’re using it. Don’t assume it means what you think it means.

It is important to understand the detail about investments, but let’s be clear: the Boards of Superannuation Funds should already know what investments they have and (even if this involves other parties such as fund managers) are quite capable of conveying instructions to fund managers, banks and so on regarding what investments they will or will not be involved in.

A concise statement for complete divestment covers all of this.

Super Funds are compulsorily-acquired retirement funds. They have been used as a multi-trillion dollar pool of funds for corporations, but they remain retirement funds for all that. Companies that those funds are invested in should not be the ones who decide what happens with those retirement funds. It is not their money.

Also bear in mind that the banking and finance industry is currently undergoing significant changes regarding disclosure of financial and non-financial interests while offering advice on financial products.  People may seem to be offering disinterested advice or expertise on ethical investments, but they might be also drumming up business for themselves or companies they have (financial or non-financial) commission agreements with that they have not disclosed. Kickbacks are a commonplace. Ask direct questions about financial & non-financial interests.

With regard to queries regarding Super Fund involvements in the “detention network,” it is not true that alternative ‘options’ within a Fund are a synonym for divestment. Alternative ‘options’ function as a means of forestalling complete divestment by allowing a fund to take up contradictory positions and hedge their bets. Moreover, all ‘options’ contribute to the financial flows within a fund — one set of ‘options’ offsets another on the balance sheet.

We do not support the minimisation of exposure. In financial terms, this involves the shifting or diminution of risk for companies and funds that continue to fund or support the public-private detention industry – this is not the same thing as divestment from mandatory detention. The minimisation of exposure or the externalisation of risk operates as a way to limit and distract from divestment.

Over the coming weeks, well post some additional information to help navigate through superannuation divestment.

For more on UniSuper, Decmil, Acorn et al, go here.

Divestment is possible if there’s a sustained focus on divestment.

Divestment from the system of mandatory detention has many aspects. Only one of those (albeit a very large part) involves Super Fund divestment.

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