09/03/2011 - 09:07

Analysis: be criticised, make $1.1bn

09/03/2011 - 09:07


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"Oh please, hit me again!" That's what management at the ANZ Bank ought to be saying after a conservation movement attack yesterday backfired to the tune of a $908 million profit for the bank's owners.

"Oh please, hit me again!" That's what management at the ANZ Bank ought to be saying after a conservation movement attack yesterday backfired to the tune of a $908 million profit for the bank's owners.

The money in this case is largely irrelevant. The importance of the event lies in the naivety of the organisation which attacked the bank and the message it sends about the direction in which they are pushing Australia.

The proposed carbon tax and the proposed mining tax are two other examples of the unfolding agenda of the Green Party and its affiliates as they gain a stronger grip on government, and lead the once pro-worker Australian Labor Party up a green garden path.

What happened yesterday is that the Conservation Council of WA called for signatories to an electronic petition criticising the ANZ for involvement in the Bluewaters coal-fired power station, while also pointing out that there are plans for 12 new coal-fired power stations in Australia.

The e-petition has an accompanying letter to the bank's chief executive, Mike Smith, which criticises the bank for being a major provider of fund for coal mining, and says: "I would like to know that my money, and the savings of other Australians, is not being used to drive dangerous climate change".

After the call to arms against the ANZ by the Conservation Council two things happened.

- Five people signed the form letter, according to the Council's own website, and

- The bank's share price rose by 35c, or 1.5% -- a modest gain, but when you have 2.59 billion shares on issue a 35c price rise boosts the value of a business by almost $1 billion.

Astute readers will spot the nonsense in the financial aspects of this argument because the Council's letter obviously had no effect on the ANZ's share price - though it is worth pointing out that the bank's shares are up again this morning; another 10c (or another $259 million, which takes the increase in market capitalisation to $1.1 billion).

But, if the financial numbers are nonsense then the attack on the ANZ is infinitely sillier because:

- ANZ is not the only big Australian company involved with the coal trade in some way, and,

- China alone is building between 20 and 30 new coal-fired power stations a year, and the rest of the world is following because people want power.

Take the first point, and consider the fact that seven of the top 10 companies listed on the ASX have their corporate fingers into coal. BHP Billiton (No.1), Wesfarmers (7) and Rio Tinto (8) mine it. Commonwealth Bank (2), Westpac (3), ANZ (4), and National Australia Bank (5) co-fund it.

Coal, love it or hate it, is deeply embedded in Australian business and in the provision of power to every home in the country. Putting the coal industry out of business, or taxing it to death, would have a devastating effect on the country - and no effect on the world's atmosphere given our insignificance in what it a global issue.

By singling out one bank for criticism the Conservation Council has displayed either a deep-seated ignorance of how the economy works, which might be forgivable and forgettable if not for the fact that Green politics are driving the actions of the Australian Government.

Dreaming about a coal-free world is understandable, but dreams eventually encounter reality and since the conservation movement also opposes nuclear, oil and gas power it is time to suggest what form of power is acceptable, and at what price.

The answer to the first part of that question is renewable power sources such as solar, wind, tide and geothermal.

There is no answer to the second part of the question, at what price, because none of alternatives can deliver base-load power required by industry, and in some cases are yet to be proven.

That is probably the biggest issue when it comes to criticising coal. What will replace it, apart from idealistic dreams.


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