Australia Western Sahara Association (Victoria)
Press Release: 30 January 2008
AWSA Questions Bendigo Bank’s Ethical Policy
The Australia Western Sahara Association protested on 29 January 2008 on the occasion of the Annual General meeting of Bendigo Bank.
Members of the Australia Western Sahara Association gathered at the Bendigo Bank AGM, in a peaceful assembly to raise awareness about the plundering of the natural resources of Western Sahara particularly the illegal importation of phosphate by Australian companies.
Mr. Ron Guy of AWSA Victoria participated in the Bank’s general meeting and reminded the participants of the ethical obligations of their charter as a community bank and that they should be aware of the inconsistencies of this with their current investment portfolio, especially in relation to Australian companies that are importing phosphates illegally from Western Sahara such as CSBP (Wesfarmers).
Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975 where gross human rights abuses, including imprisonment, rape, torture and disappearances have been committed by the Moroccan regime.
Mr. Guy informed the AGM of the UN legal opinion of 2002 which states that the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara against the wishes of its population is illegal. He cited recent ethical positions by Norwegian and Swedish [financial] institutions, KLP and KPA, both of which have penalised Australian companies for their involvement in Western Sahara and excluded them from their investment portfolios.
During the meeting Bendigo Bank Managing Director, Mr. Robert Johanson replied to the issues raised by AWSA. He said that he is aware of the issue of Western Sahara and the ethical issues related to. He further said that “It is an important matter and something that has now been brought to our attention by (AWSA) and added ‘‘we do take those things very seriously and will consider it.’’
AWSA certainly urges Bendigo Bank to take the matter very seriously as it concerns both ethical and legal issues. AWSA expects to receive an answer in the near future from the Bank’s Board.
AWSA further urges the Australian Government to encourage the companies to put the illegal importation of phosphates from Western Sahara on hold until the sovereignty of the country is determined.
Please refer to the background on this issues at: http://awsa.org.au/?p=266