ANZ to face questions from shareholders about its human rights record

ANZ to face questions from shareholders about its human rights record

At ANZ’s annual general meeting in Perth this morning, questions will be asked of CEO Shayne Elliott about the bank’s failure to compensate Cambodian farmers pushed off their land to make way for an ANZ-funded sugar plantation.

Keren Adams, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that ANZ’s failure to take any responsibility for the consequences of its actions was shocking:

“ANZ has profited from serious human rights abuses. They admit that their systems were lacking and as a result, they funded an initiative that destroyed the lives of hundreds of Cambodian families.”

In 2011, ANZ provided a $40 million loan to Phnom Penh Sugar, which had forcibly displaced hundreds of local farming families and employed school-aged children in dangerous conditions at its sugarcane plantation in southern Cambodia. The loan was recently found by an Australian Government complaints body to contradict the bank’s own internal policies and international human rights standards.

In October, in response to questioning about this decision, Mr Elliott told an Australian Parliamentary Committee that what had happened in Cambodia was a “dreadful situation” and that the bank would “look to do the right thing” with the profit made from the loan. However the bank appears to have subsequently backed away from those statements.  In a letter sent to interested stakeholders this week, the bank suggested the farmers should instead look to the Cambodian government for compensation, despite the government’s known intimidation tactics.

“After Mr Elliott’s recent public comments, the Cambodian families left destitute by this land grab were looking to the bank to do the right thing. The bank’s decision is another slap in the face for them,” said Ms Adams.

“We call on ANZ to immediate divest the profit from its loan to Phnom Penh Sugar to help address the harm caused to these families”.

A statement to be provided to shareholders by NGOs Equitable Cambodia and Inclusive Development International outlines a further five recent cases in which ANZ has allegedly financed companies implicated in land grabbing and other serious human rights violations.

For interviews, call Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519.