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Tuesday, 27 September 2022
Page: 54

Senator COX (Western Australia) (17:14): I rise to make my contribution to this matter of urgency. The Greens indeed agree that the superannuation sector needs more transparency. You've heard from Senator McKim exactly that. Australians should know how their super is being invested. In particular, it should be easily accessible for an individual to know if their super is being invested in, say, fossil fuels, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, logging, offshore detention and many other industries.

We've seen a rise in companies ramping up their policies and commitments regarding environmental and social governance, and it's great to see increasingly more companies starting to own this responsibility and take it seriously whilst also acknowledging that they have a lot of power and a huge role to play in relation to what environmental and social responsibility looks like. It's also great to see investors taking these factors more seriously, too, and being more conscious of the industries and companies they are actually investing in.

We all vote with our money. Every single day we do this. We might not put much thought into it, but every single dollar we spend sends a message to a company that we like them, the products and services they have to offer, and what they stand for overall. If we didn't, why would we spend our hard earned money there?

However, whilst on one hand we are seeing this increase of transparency and accountability, we are also seeing some take advantage of that. They are advertising themselves as being environmentally friendly; taking care of their workers; having social licence to operate in those communities they operate in; and having good, diverse and accountable leadership, when in fact they absolutely don't. They are greenwashing and misleading the public and their investors on lots of occasions. Some businesses are taking advantage of investors who are wanting them to do the right thing and making great claims without actually embodying them.

This is why we need strong regulations relating to environmental, social and governance regulations. It's commonly known as ESG, and the EU has a comprehensive framework that governs ESG, which has formed part of the European Green Deal. The UK and New Zealand have also taken measures to help regulate ESG, with a primary focus on environment considerations, which we here at the Greens obviously see as a priority.

Australia, once again, is about five or 10 years behind the rest of the world. We can start to elevate this through this process, particularly with the transparency of investment and transparency of super funds. We know there are some frameworks here in Australia that people refer to as sustainability that are already in place but in fact are not strong enough if we are seeing companies continuing to talk the talk without walking the walk, and without it being properly regulated and having the power to do that.

We know that fossil fuel companies in Australia know that the Australian public want climate action, and they know the public want renewable energy, so what are they doing? They're placing wind turbines and solar panels in their ads. That's what they're doing. But they're still continuing to extract coal and gas, cooking our planet. This is absolutely a marketer's dream, the greenwashing that they are doing. These ads are obviously curated for that sneaky and convenient purpose, to convince the public that this is not actually the issue. They are not providing transparency in relation to what superannuation funds are doing.

In the past we have seen that the super funds that are doing this are already performing better than others who are not: making sure that their governance is in check and making sure there is transparency already for investors who are investing in fossil fuels, gambling and weapons. It has been found that these criteria actually help investors avoid some of the controversy that can impact their stock prices and their investment returns. One example is BHP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We absolutely need to hold these companies to account and make sure that there is transparency in their ESG policies. We will not address the climate crisis with companies simply adjusting their market strategy.

If we want to make sure that if companies want to do good by the planet and people, then we actually need to create that transparency through a regulated framework. Many of us have seen super invested by these giant companies. We need to make sure that when they are making those investments they align with their priorities and their values and are not aiding the burying of the truth.