Customers switch banks in day of divestment

More than 100 people took part in Melbourne’s Divestment Day protest, as part of a national day of action against major banks continuing to invest in new coal, oil and gas projects.

Australia-wide, up to 1000 bank customers cut up their cards, switched banks and closed accounts with the Big Four – ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac.

Protesters in Melbourne donned tee-shirts proclaiming ‘My bank chose fossil fuels so I chose another bank’.

Among them was the vocalist of ska and jazz band The Cat Empire, Felix Riebl, who switched to Bendigo Bank.

‘‘The Divestment movement really appealed to me because it came to my attention that ANZ, which was my bank, was the leading investor in coal and gas investments around the country, especially those affecting the reef more recently.

‘‘I think it’s a really worthwhile thing for people to consider where they invest their money and what the environmental and ethical ramifications of that are.

‘‘It’s not incredibly hard action, it’s just strong and decisive individual action and I think it’s the kind of movement that could really catch on and make a difference.

‘‘I’m not here to say I’m going to change the world by switching banks or that 200 people today leaving their banks in Melbourne is going to make a difference in the ANZ board meetings, but it is a strong individual effort and there is a sense of community around it and so I think that that makes a difference somewhere and if it feels genuine to me, which it did, I can’t help but think that it’s worthwhile doing.’’

Organisers, 350.org Australia and Market Forces, say the campaign is actually ‘‘not really about money’’.

But Market Forces lead campaigner Julien Vincent said the growth of the movement meant that it was starting to have a financial impact.

‘‘We’ve now got enough customers having warned their bank that they’ll move their money if the bank doesn’t stop funding fossil fuels.

‘‘Those customers account for more than $125million – that’s just in savings.’’

The story Customers switch banks in day of divestment first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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