House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Australian National University: Divestments

10:06 am

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Equities are traded every day of the week. It is the right and proper thing to happen. Institutions do not normally make grand statements as to what equities they have bought and sold. However, if they do, we can only assume they are making some kind of political statement, which raises the ANU's very curious actions in announcing it has divested itself of a range of stocks for ethical reasons, without informing the Australian public as to what those reasons are. As I say, I applaud their ability to buy and sell whatever stocks they choose, but if they are going to slam someone they should have the decency and the strength to come out and say what those unethical transgressions were by the particular companies.

Two of the companies have significant investments in my electorate. One, Santos, is South Australia's only top 20 company and is highly regarded as a company. Santos has good environmental credentials, supplying most of south-eastern Australia's domestic gas and making a huge contribution to limiting national and global CO2 emissions. Santos is one of the state's largest contributors of the arts. It is a major sponsor of the South Australian Art Gallery and a major contributor in the sports field. Santos is the most significant sponsor of The Tour Down Under, which is a wonderful sporting event held in South Australia. As most of the world know, the tour draws thousands of people to our state and should be celebrated.

Santos is a huge investor in tight gas in South Australia, discovering new supplies of gas now that we could never have imagined even 10 or 20 years ago. Thoughts abound at the moment that the Cooper Basin may be 50 per cent depleted after 40 years, and there may be 12 times as much tight gas in the form of shale gas as we have already taken out of that basin. We have to work out how to access it and Santos is expending significant amounts of money in developing the processes. Santos also has investments in tight gas in Queensland and New South Wales, where it is recognised as the most environmentally disciplined operator in the coal seam gas industry. It is not only underwriting Australia's future, but as I said, is significantly reducing CO2 gases worldwide. While gas emits CO2, it does so at about 50 per cent of the rate of coal, which largely is what it is replacing. It does not matter where the gas is used, it does not have to be burned in Australia; it still makes the same contribution to reducing CO2 around the world. In fact, this is an argument I could take a little further except that I have run out of time. The company has good relations with traditional owners and is a significant employer of Indigenous labour. I am unsure what ethical transgression Santos has performed in the ANU's opinion.

Its decision to publicise its divestment of Iluka equities is perhaps even more puzzling. Iluka is a large producer of mineral sands including zircon. Zircon is used to line glass furnaces and to build high-temperature engines. It is used in electronics and is essential for space travel. I am not sure what is unethical about these products. Iluka is also one of the world's biggest suppliers of rutile, which is essential for the manufacture of modern optical equipment. Rutile is, in turn, primarily produced from titanium, which is used to make lightweight knee and hip joints, desalination plants, dental implants and medical implants. In 2013 Iluka won the Premier's award for social inclusion for its Indigenous employment program. In 2014 it won the Premier's award for environmental excellence for its work in rehabilitating the mine site at its Jacinth-Ambrosia project.

I cannot find the missing link. What makes Iluka unethical? Unfortunately, the ANU have not deigned to inform us, even though they have announced to the world that Iluka is. We are, as I said, all free to trade equities, including the ANU. I applaud them for doing so. Good on them. But, if they are going to accuse others of being unethical, they should have the intestinal fortitude to say why. Otherwise, they are simply bullies and cowards to boot.