Australia's big investment bank in cluster bomb 'hall of shame'

Macquarie Bank was found to have investments in companies manufacturing cluster bombs.
November 28, 2014

Macquarie Group is the largest investment bank and fund manager in Australia. On November 27 it was listed in a “Hall of Shame” report on global financial institutions found to have investments in companies manufacturing cluster bombs.

The report Worldwide investments in cluster munitions: a shared responsibility, produced by the Dutch peace organisation PAX, listed Macquarie for its investment in South Korean arms manufacturer Poongsan.

Poongsan makes three types of artillery cluster munitions and supplies them to the Pakistani military. These artillery projectiles each disperse up to 64 “bomblets” over a wide area, which is the purpose of cluster munitions.

The reason 94 states signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions is that cluster munitions pose a terrible threat to civilian populations during and after an attack.

Many bomblets fail to explode on impact and they lie on the ground only to explode later, killing and injuring innocent civilians.

Australia is a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and is supposed to have implemented the convention through the 2012 Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Act. But this law has yet to be used against any company.

On the day the report was released, I joined a small group of activists who went to Macquarie Group's Sydney headquarters to deliver a letter demanding that the bank end its investment in the notorious cluster munitions manufacturing company.

Men in fine suits looked down at our symbolic protest through the stylish glass-walled building that sported the bank’s hollow coin logo from the convict settlement era of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

Macquarie's hollow coin was designed to economise on precious metal and it captures the moral emptiness of the global finance companies that continue to supply the investments that produce terrible weapons like cluster bombs, even when they are banned under international conventions.

Well-paid corporate lawyers are always on hand to quibble over whether an investment is “legal” or not, just as well-paid accountants and secretive tax havens can be found to avoid paying taxes. Whether an investment is right or wrong is never really an issue. The main question is what is the return? History has shown that for a certain amount a banker will invest in almost anything.

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Below photo by Peter Boyle of the snap protest outside Macquarie Group offices in Sydney on November 27: