Banking loophole unlocks fossil fuel billions

Australia’s major banks and superannuation funds are pouring tens of billions of dollars into fossil fuel projects, using “loopholes” in their climate change commitments, a new report reveals.

What we know:

  • Analysis published today by the Climate Council found the Big Four banks – Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and NAB – have lent $57.5bn to fossil fuel companies and projects since 2015 (Climate Council); 
  • The report finds that while the major banks have made commitments to ending their support for fossil fuel projects, they have continued to support companies involved in building them;
  • One example includes a loan to Global Infrastructure Partners for its stake in the proposed Woodside Pluto 2 LNG project in WA (The New Daily); 
  • “The project would be excluded from NAB and Westpac’s lending policies if a loan had been provided directly to the project rather than through this investment vehicle,” the report said;
  • Australia’s 15 largest superannuation funds meanwhile invested more than $25bn in coal, oil and gas expansion to the end of last year;
  • The report warns that banks are simultaneously exposed to worsening climate risks as borrowers struggle to afford insurance for their mortgaged properties amid worsening disasters;
  • The Climate Council has called for Australia to impose tougher restrictions on the banks that require them to be more transparent about their exposure to climate-related risks, and prevent existing loopholes;
  • It comes as a contingent of Coalition MPs – including federal opposition frontbenchers Paul Fletcher and Bridget McKenzie – flies out to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai funded by two ginger groups (The Guardian); 
  • The group will travel over despite Opposition Leader Peter Dutton making fun of Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen on talkback radio for travelling to the conference and “incurring all those emissions”;
  • Bowen is likely to face growing pressure at the conference to raise Australia’s climate ambitions, particularly in light of Australia’s bid to host the event in 2026 (The Saturday Paper). 
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Van pitch for women and work

Former Liberal senator David Van has been accused of using official email and Instagram accounts to flirt with women and pitch the services of his private PR business.

What we know:

  • Van, who is now an independent senator after he was pressured out of the party over alleged harassment of politicians including Senator Lidia Thorpe —- which Van strenuously denies — is reported to have used his official social media accounts to message women using terms like “babe” and “hon” (The Age); 
  • The messages raised alarm in then-prime minister Scott Morrison’s office in 2021, prompting senior government figures to counsel Van to behave appropriately;
  • In a message to a cooking influencer with 21,000 followers in 2021, Van wrote: “Hey darling here is my Senate page. Appreciate it if you can push it hard to your friends.. especially the shot of me in the shorts and give it the hashtag #senatorsixpack”;
  • Liberal insiders also raised concerns about Van’s use of his official email account to discuss his private business, PR firm The De Wintern Group;
  • In September 2019 Van pitched reputation management and media management services to cleaning firm GJK Facility Services at a cost of thousands of dollars a month;
  • In a separate email using his Senate account, Van asked his parliamentary executive assistant to research restaurants with “private rooms” and forwarded the email to an army officer who he called “baby” (Nine); 
  • It comes as Van emerges as a crucial member of the cross bench, with Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek securing his support for Labor’s Murray–Darling Basin plan (The Australian $); 
  • Thorpe branded it an “absolute disgrace” that Labor would deal with the man she alleges assaulted her — a claim Van denies (The Australian $). 
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Israel’s southern push kills hundreds

Israel has launched air strikes against hundreds of targets in Gaza as ground forces advance into the south, squeezing Palestinians into progressively tinier slivers of the besieged territory.

Local health authorities say hundreds have been killed or wounded since the ceasefire’s end early on Friday, as Israel calls for Palestinians to evacuate areas of the south where it is escalating bombing campaigns (AP).  

About 2m people — most of the territory’s population — are crowded into the 230sq km that make up south and central Gaza, where Israel’s ground offensive is expanding with the expiry of the ceasefire.

It comes amid revelations that Israel is employing an AI platform called “the Gospel” to generate vastly more targets than in previous Gaza sieges, including projections of the number of civilians likely to be killed in a particular attack (+972 Magazine). 

The system is used to identify a range of targets including the homes of suspected Hamas officials, as well as important public buildings and infrastructure to exert “civil pressure” on Hamas.

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Australia repairs French bond with pact

Australia and France have committed to a new defence pact, as the two nations put disputes over submarine manufacture behind them.

Under the deal, they will grant greater access to each other’s military bases in the Pacific region and Indian Ocean, and allow for more complex military drills by the two nations (AAP). 

Foreign Minister Penny Wong hosted French counterpart Catherine Colonna in Canberra to announce the deal on Monday.

It is one component of a bilateral road map that includes a centre of excellence in the Indo-Pacific, and greater co-operation on critical minerals through policy discussions and market development.

The deal was partly motivated by a desire from both countries to counter the rise of China.

It marks a clear break from a turbulent period for the bilateral relationship, after Australia scrapped a lucrative French submarine deal and French President Emmanuel Macron accused then-prime minister Scott Morrison of lying.

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Murphy honoured from all sides

Tributes have poured in from all sides of politics for Labor MP Peta Murphy, who died after a four-year battle with cancer.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday confirmed the death of the 50-year-old Victorian MP at a press conference in Canberra (The New Daily). 

“Every one of us in the Labor family is broken-hearted by the death of our beloved Peta Murphy …[she] was brave, she was courageous and she was loved,” he said.

Murphy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, before beating it and was elected to Parliament in the Melbourne seat of Dunkley in 2019, only to learn two weeks later that the cancer had returned.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Murphy had served Labor, her constituents and the Australian people “with grace and distinction”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said “we’re all poorer without her”.

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Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, for instance, declined at least 52 interview requests with the ABC and did not agree to a single interview on a major broadcast program.

For all the “No” campaign’s complaints about the media ignoring them, a Voice referendum coverage review finds it turns out the opposite seems to have been the case (SMH).

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Postscript: ‘FYI Pickleball DRAMA’: Local Governments Overwhelmed By Tennis-Pickleball Turf Wars, Documents Show

What I learnt about the pickleball lobby and pickleball turf wars by reading thousands of pages of documents from inside local government (404).

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