REST Super: Major Shareholder In Manus and Nauru Detention. #Broadspectrum #RESTdivest

REST, the superannuation fund for workers in retail, warehousing and the fast-food industry, is a major shareholder in Transfield Services Broadspectrum.  According to Broadspectrum’s 2015 Annual Report, REST has just under 25 million shares Continue reading “REST Super: Major Shareholder In Manus and Nauru Detention. #Broadspectrum #RESTdivest”

REST Super: Major Shareholder In Manus and Nauru Detention. #Broadspectrum #RESTdivest

How Managed Is The Conversation On #UniSuper?

Bernard Mees, a member of the Consultative Committee of UniSuper, recently published an article in The Conversation.

Here are two comments on that article: Continue reading “How Managed Is The Conversation On #UniSuper?”

How Managed Is The Conversation On #UniSuper?

Four Things You Should Know About #HESTAdivest #NauruInquiry #Transfield #UniSuper

On August 17th, Transfield Services (TSE) issued a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). This statement was not a media release but a compliance report in line with stipulations of the Corporations Act and ASX governance rules.

On August 18th, the sixth-largest superannuation fund in Australia (HESTA) announced that it was divesting from Transfield Services. This follows similar announcements by at least two smaller funds in the previous two years. Continue reading “Four Things You Should Know About #HESTAdivest #NauruInquiry #Transfield #UniSuper”

Four Things You Should Know About #HESTAdivest #NauruInquiry #Transfield #UniSuper

Australian Financial Review Loses Its Mind Over #HESTADivest. Why would that be?

Less than a day after HESTA announced that it would divest its holdings in Transfield Services, the Australian Financial Review has run an editorial critical of that move. [here] Continue reading “Australian Financial Review Loses Its Mind Over #HESTADivest. Why would that be?”

Australian Financial Review Loses Its Mind Over #HESTADivest. Why would that be?

ANMF Delegates Conference (Vic) calls for divestment of Super Funds from detention industry

This is the text of the motion passed by the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Delegates’ Conference yesterday:

That this conference request ANMF (Vic Branch) to lobby First State Super and HESTA superannuation funds to divest themselves of investments in organisations whose business interests directly or indirectly breach the human rights of those seeking asylum.

via Tara Nipe. Well done!

ANMF Delegates Conference (Vic) calls for divestment of Super Funds from detention industry

NTEU statement on UniSuper investments in detention | #highered

In the most recent edition of the NTEU’s Advocate (22:1, March 2015, screenshot below), the General Secretary, Grahame McCulloch, wrote an article titled “Union moves to ethical investment of members’ funds.” The General Secretary of the NTEU is also the Union’s representative on UniSuper’s Board of Directors. We would like to remind the NTEU that they represent their members and not UniSuper, and that they have a clear policy for divestment from the detention industry as a whole. The substantive article makes no mention of UniSuper however, and instead refers to the assets held by the NTEU, which it presents in these terms:

Although the Union has a core obligation to maximise investment returns on members’ funds, it also needs to ensure that investment is ethical and sustainable, with a particular focus on labour and environmental standards.

There is no mention of any or a “particular focus” on human rights, despite the fact the most recent National Conference of the NTEU specifically passed a motion calling on UniSuper to divest from companies involved in the detention of asylum seekers. (That took the form of the motion passed at the Victoria U Branch of the NTEU, which was one of at least five branches that passed similar motions prior to the national NTEU meeting.) There is however a note appended at the very end of the article about the status of UniSuper’s investments, the entirety of which reads as follows:

Members may be interested that UniSuper which had a small indirect exposure to Transfield Services (a company involved in refugee detention) divested itself of this holding for commercial reasons in late 2014.

This is misleading. Firstly, the wording is a version of a statement that was circulated some months back by Campus Morning Mail. It uses a form of phrasing (“small indirect exposure”) that has become popular among funds as a means to manage members’ perceptions of investment practices.

It is important to be clear about what this language means—and does not mean.

“Small indirect exposure” simply does not mean that the dollar amounts are small. Whether the investments can reasonably be characterised as “small” when dealing with a $47.8 billion dollar fund is questionable.

That is, “exposure” is a fractional, relative term. “Exposure” can become “smaller” due to an increase in overall amounts contained within a fund rather than any decrease in dollar amounts invested in a particular industry. It is therefore possible for “exposure” to decrease while the amount of money invested in detention companies has increased.

From the perspective of a divestment campaign, “exposure” has no significance whatsoever, and the amount of “exposure”—as with the term “stand-alone options” that UniSuper has similarly been using to fend off queries about its investments in detention—has no determinate meaning in overall financial or legal terms. A fund is still a single fund for the purposes of legal and financial liabilities, and the impact of particular (bad) investments can and will run through the entire fund, often irrespective of dollar amounts.

Used in the context of fund investments, “exposure” and “stand-alone options” are marketing terms. They are a means of managing the risk (to the fund) of people calling on that fund to divest from unethical industries. The term “exposure” comes from theories of financial contagion, and its use in this context verges on the nonsensical.

The article carried by Campus Morning Mail also contained blatant errors of fact regarding Transfield’s corporate arrangements.

Secondly, most if not all of UniSuper’s investments could be described as “indirect,” in the sense that they are handled by investment managers. However, UniSuper makes decisions about which investment managers they use and investment policies they pursue, and are therefore quite capable of using an investment fund which has better criteria for investment. [See note 1 for details about how this occurs within UniSuper.]

Thirdly, UniSuper have admitted they continue to invest in Serco, Decmil and unspecified other companies involved in the detention industry, and have plainly not stated that they will not re-invest in Transfield at some future date.

Some time ago, we were approached by someone from the NTEU and encouraged to declare this a win for the NTEU and the divestment campaign. We do not see how this is plausible or in the interests of divestment. At best, such declarations serve to stall the momentum of the divestment campaign by sowing confusion [see also note 2 below]. The NTEU has a policy to pursue divestment from the detention industry as a whole, not protect UniSuper from pressure to divest.

Moreover, while some continue to shield the detention industry with invocations of fiduciary duty and abstract fealty to ‘investment maximisation,’ we have pointed out that there is scope within conventional ethical investment guidelines for fund managers to exclude an entire industry based on its predictably causing harm.

Furthermore, we have already indicated the extent to which investments in Transfield have amounted to bad commercial decisions, in the case of both UniSuper and HESTA—and we expect that this encouraged UniSuper’s decision to “[divest] itself of this holding for commercial reasons.” (See our divestment brochure, and for more on HESTA, stay tuned for the launch of hestadivest.net)

Still, making rather than losing money from investments in an extremely, predictably, damaging industry (as with tobacco and landmines) is not plausible grounds for continuing to invest. UniSuper would not seek to claim that they should invest in tobacco (which, as with detention, is legal) so as to make that industry “more socially responsible.” That UniSuper have argued this line repeatedly in the past suggests that they are unlikely to divest of their own accord unless pressured to do so.

Far from being a symbolic act, as some have suggested, divestment involves withdrawing millions of dollars effectively loaned to the detention industry at rates far below those of any bank loans. Divestment is a far more practical step in the campaign against mandatory detention than most, and it is undoubtedly why it is being met with some resistance and the fomenting of confusion.

Finally, as some of us are members of both the NTEU and have funds with UniSuper, we call on the NTEU, and its representative on the Board of UniSuper, to give an accurate account of the precise steps they have taken, and will take, to ensure further and verifiable divestment from the detention industry. In the meantime, we will endeavour to provide accurate, credible and independent advice on how to kick over the financial props of the detention industry.

Notes

1. As we noted in the divestment brochure, the Chair UniSuper’s committee tasked with deciding on UniSuper investment policy and the appointment of investment managers is also the Chair of Argo Investments. As per its most recent available Annual Report, Argo held a $4m stake in Transfield and a $15m stake in Toll Holdings. It is quite likely that were UniSuper to divest completely from the detention industry, it would impact the value of investments held by others. Well, good. And good investment managers should be capable of planning for change as a matter of course.

2. Prior to this, we were informed late last year that the NTEU—despite its own policy—was “backing away from divestment” and, instead, would undertake unspecified “other kinds of actions” around the issue of refugees. Subsequently, two NTEU staff members, presumably responsible for working on refugee issues, emerged as key organisers of the “hunger for justice” action, and bizarrely they organised this event using our name. We did not organise this event nor did we endorse it. We have since been led to understand that others did endorse it because they thought we had organised it. As far as we can tell, the only tangible outcome of “hunger for justice” was constructing a media platform for the promotion of politicians from parties that support mandatory detention. These same organisers subsequently, and inaccurately, implied to journalists that they had organised other actions, such as those at recent sporting events, the sky-writing actions over Canberra and Sydney, and anti-deportation actions. nteu

NTEU statement on UniSuper investments in detention | #highered

Uni of Melbourne Student Union passes motion in support of divestment | #Transfield #UniSuper #NTEU

Below is the text of the preamble & motion that was passed at UMSU:

Background:

Australia’s border regime and its reliance on mandatory indefinite immigration detention is the target of frequent, global condemnation as unjust, cruel, and illegal.  Offshore immigration detention centres on Christmas Island, Manus Island, and Nauru have been singled out for particular condemnation, with reports emerging that asylum seekers are being raped, beaten, and even killed while in the care of the Australian government. The remoteness and secrecy of these prisons shields the Australian government from accountability for this violence.

All Australian offshore detention centres are run by private contractors. These contractors act as a further shield against accountability for the Australian government, and profit in doing so.  Infrastructure and waste disposal company Transfield recently won the contract from G4S to run detention centres on Manus and Nauru, to the value of $1-2 billion dollars, depending on unspecified “contingencies”.

One of the largest investors in Transfield is UniSuper, the industry super fund for the tertiary education sector. Superannuation is compulsory under Australian law.  As such, all academic staff employed at the University of Melbourne, and the majority of UMSU staff, have investments in Transfield, and receive returns as Transfield’s contracts expand. As the NTEU and UMSU have consistently taken a position against mandatory detention, this cannot be considered to be the desire of the majority of UniSuper investors. The NTEU has a representative — therefore a voice — on the UniSuper board.

Investing in companies like Transfield makes us as individuals and institutions accountable for these abuses.  Further, our investments provide us with a point from which we can put pressure on all potential contractors to refuse contracts to run detention centres. As such, Transfield is the target of a boycott and divestment campaign from a broad coalition of pro-refugee groups, including RISE Refugee, Students Thinking Outside Borders, Crossborder Operational Matters, Boycott 19 BoS, and Beyond Borders Collective.

In the context of massive cuts to education, and corresponding redirection of funds to border control, all university students and workers must stand firm against profiteering based on racist border panic.

Motion:

We reiterate our opposition to mandatory immigration detention.

We commit to divesting from all contracts with Transfield and other businesses or funds with investments in immigration detention.

We call on UniSuper to divest from Transfield and all other businesses or funds with investments in immigration detention centres.

We further call on NTEU National Executive to urge UniSuper to divest from Transfield and all other businesses or funds with investments in immigration detention centres.

Video

Victoria Uni branch of academic union passes motion on UniSuper divestment from mandatory detention

Great motion passed at a Victoria University Branch meeting of the National Tertiary Education Union.   Continue reading “Victoria Uni branch of academic union passes motion on UniSuper divestment from mandatory detention”

Victoria Uni branch of academic union passes motion on UniSuper divestment from mandatory detention

National Australia Bank, investors in and bankers for the detention industry | #Divest

The National Australia Bank (NAB) and its associated entities such as MLC, have a substantial shareholding in Transfield Services LtdContinue reading “National Australia Bank, investors in and bankers for the detention industry | #Divest”

National Australia Bank, investors in and bankers for the detention industry | #Divest