Flat White

Crime before coal?

9 December 2020

8:38 PM

9 December 2020

8:38 PM

The chair of one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains, Mary Sum of the Plate Group, has announced that its 900 venues will no longer serve board members, executives, shareholders or any of the NBA staff, from any of the bank’s 900 branches. The decision, she said, reflects the Plate Group board’s disapproval of the bank’s unsavoury practices as revealed in the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the banking industry. 

The impacts of unethical banking policy have a growing effect on our business, our customers and the communities in which we operate. That’s why we’re taking action,” her statement reads.  

The Plate Group’s decision comes after NAB’s announcement that “NAB will no longer finance new thermal coal mining projects. The impacts of climate change and climate-related policy are having a growing effect on our business, our customers and the communities in which we operate. That’s why we’re taking action.”  


Adding to her remarks, Mary Sum said “We are not just an eatery, we are guardians of public ethics — as we see them, acting on behalf of our stakeholders, whether they want us to or not. Ethics are ethics…” 

In one example, Royal Commissioner Kenneth Hayne AC, pointed to NAB. NAB provided two submissions to the Commission in which it acknowledged it had engaged in misconduct and conduct falling below community standards and expectations in relation to home lending, credit cards, personal loans and processing or administration errors. And “NAB acknowledged that it had engaged in misconduct between 2008 and 2013, arising from the erroneous recording of 16,288 credit defaults against customers with NAB credit cards or personal loan accounts. NAB noted that some of this conduct also involved contraventions of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).” 

Incoming NAB chairman Philip Chronican appeared before a parliamentary inquiry in the big four banks last month. When asked by Liberal MP Craig Kelly if the bank would refuse a loan to someone who presented a business plan for making X-rated videos, Chronican said the bank was required to make a risk assessment for customers in high-risk sectors, including those where there was a risk of involvement with money laundering, human trafficking or organised crime. That meant X-rated video lending would have “a higher threshold than lending to the corner store”, but it wouldn’t be ruled out like coal.  

Customers of Australian companies now seem to have a choice of patronising one of two sets of companies: those like NAB, that claim ethical superiority in climate change thinking — but not necessarily in any other area of their enterprise – and those that focus on doing their core business, like all the rest. NAB’s marketing slug: “Crime before coal!” 

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