David Stuart

Westpac discriminating against NQ, says Qld Senator

WESTPAC Bank is discriminating against North Queensland with its Climate Change Action Plan guiding lending to new coal mines, Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan says.

Further, Senator Canavan said Westpac was now seeking to mislead people about the intent of its plan and was failing to disclose it had a financial interest in the Newcastle port, which was fed by thermal coal mines in NSW.

"Westpac are not just discriminating against Queensland, they are now lying about it as well," Senator Canavan said.

"On top of that discrimination, Westpac has also failed to disclose its financial interest in the Newcastle port, the biggest coal port in the world."

Senator Canavan was responding to concerns raised by Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O'Callaghan, who has questioned why the bank will fund new coal mines in NSW but not in central Queensland's Galilee Basin where coal had a higher energy content, producing less carbon emissions in power stations.

Yesterday, a Westpac spokesman said they stood by their comments they were not favouring one state or region over the other.

The spokesman also rejected suggestions the bank needed to disclose a financial interest in the Newcastle port.

Its fund manager Hastings, which manages funds on behalf of port part owner The Infrastructure Fund, did not have an equity holding in the port, the spokesman said.

"It is important to note Hastings is the fund manager, not the owner or trustee of these assets," the spokesman said.

"It is incorrect to suggest that Westpac developed its Climate Change Policy because a fund operated through a subsidiary has a partial stake in the Newcastle Port that is held on behalf of superannuation funds."

Senator Canavan said the bank clearly had a conflict of interest.

"They have a financial interest in seeing the funds perform well," Senator Canavan said. "The better the port goes, the better for Hastings, the better for Westpac."

Ms O'Callaghan took to Westpac at a Townsville Bulletin Business Breakfast on Thursday over the bank's climate plan, which limits financing for any new thermal coal projects to existing coal-producing basins and where the calorific value of coal meets the energy content of at least 6300kCal/kg.

Ms O'Callaghan said there were three mine projects in the Galilee Basin that would produce coal above 6300kCal/kg.