RISE exclusive media release (24 July 2014) : RISE WITHDRAWS FROM NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK’S SERVICES

RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees has withdrawn from the use of National Australia Bank’s banking services because of its involvement in Australia’s inhumane, unlawful and unconscionable offshore detention industry.

We have been a National Australia Bank (NAB) customer since our founding in 2009. However, concerning information about NAB’s investment activities was brought to our attention in the last few months.

As recently as May, NAB was a substantial holder of shares in Transfield Services Limited. Transfield operates the Australian government’s offshore internment camps on Nauru and Manus Island. It stands at the heart of this country’s immigration detention–industrial complex. During the extended period that NAB held a substantial stake in the company, Transfield announced that it had reached an agreement with the Australian government to take over the Manus Island facility, on top of its existing contract to run the Nauru camp.

RISE’s governance structure includes refugees who are ex-detainees, and many of our members have also directly experienced and continue to experience the cruelty of Australia’s immigration detention system. After NAB’s investments in Transfield were brought to our attention, we were compelled to review our position as a NAB customer.

We sent a letter to NAB asking for an explanation. NAB responded that it had not directly invested in Transfield for its own benefit. It said that investment divisions within the group had traded in Transfield shares for the benefit of investors. It said that the decisions to invest in Transfield were not taken by NAB itself, but rather by investment managers who were bound to act solely based on financial considerations.

We have carefully considered this justification, but have indicated to NAB that we are not satisfied with it. It ignores the fact that NAB provides investment services as part of commercial activities from which it derives profit. It also ignores the fact that NAB created the investment products whose terms allegedly require the investment managers to invest unethically.

We have reached the view that it is untenable to stay with a bank that cultivates an “ethical” image but involves itself financially with policies that degrade the mental and physical well-being of persecuted people. We have therefore ended our own involvement with NAB.

We note that the Ethisphere Institute recently rated NAB as one of the “world’s most ethical companies”. We urge Ethisphere to review its decision in light of the serious concerns that we have raised.

Finally, we call on all refugee advocacy and welfare organisations to audit their activities to ensure that they are not implicated with the dirty profits of the immigration detention industry.