It’s time we talk about guns… and your super

Author Christina Hobbs
Posted on 29 March 2019
It’s time we talk about guns… and your super

As news broke of the mass shooting in New Zealand this month, many of us ‘across the ditch’ felt a hint of relief for the Howard era laws passed to restrict gun control in Australia; but the reality is, through our superannuation, most Australians are investing in the global firearms industry and the use of these weapons abroad.

Research has shown that the majority of women (and men), want their super invested ethically and do not want their money funding the companies that manufacture or trade weapons designed to kill.  

But the reality is, unless you have made an active decision to invest your super in an ethical  fund that doesn’t invest in weapons –and some ‘ethical funds’ do still invest in weapons– then it is likely that your money is financing the armament industry.

Most of the funds associated with Australia’s Big Banks, as well as Australia’s largest industry funds, are invested in local and multinational arms manufacturers and dealers, including in companies like: Thales, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and more.

If you can’t easily find a list of all the companies your fund is invested in, or a statement that they don’t invest in armaments, then assume your money is invested in the industry. Don’t believe me? Call your fund and ask.

There is an argument, of course, that weapons are critical for our military and allies to protect our safety. But it is a reality, that the world’s major armament manufacturers also sell their products to foreign Governments known to be using weapons to commit humans rights abuses. These manufacturers also profit from laxed laws that allow civilians to buy weapons in countries like the US, and until recently, New Zealand.

Only a couple of years ago Thales Australia put its F90 military Atrax assault rifle on the US gun market to be sold to US civilians.

This week, the corporate advocacy organisation SumOfUs is urging superannuation funds to divest from Electro Optic Systems (EOS), a Canberra based company behind Saudi Arabia arms deals.

EOS joins companies like British arms supplier BAE Systems in continuing to supply armaments to Saudi Arabia, despite a UN investigation that has identified possible war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen -including the innocent bombing of civilians, rape and torture.

As Nick Haynes, from the SumofUs puts it, through the everyday investments of Australians’ superannuation, we’re not just giving “tacit approval of Saudi Arabia’s actions. We are arming them”.

When we invest in firearm and weapons companies through our super, we are not only funding the manufacture, sales and use of weapons, but also the tens of millions of dollars that these companies spend lobbying governments each year.

A new report has found Australia’s gun lobby spent more per capita over the course of one year on political donations than America’s National Rifle Association (NRA) did in 2018.

On Tuesday an al-Jazeera investigation revealed senior One Nation figures James Ashby and Steve Dickson had sought millions in donations from the NRA. But the reality is that both of the major parties, Liberal and Labor, have openly received donations from the weapons manufactures that our superannuation is invested in; including donations from Thales Australia.

In addition to firearms, like those used in the New Zealand terror attack, Australian superannuation is also invested in weapons that are designed and manufactured specifically to cause mass casualties, and by design are likely to kill civilians. These include nuclear weapons, cluster munitions, biological and chemical weapons and landmines.

Prior to my role as a CEO and Co-Founder of an ethical superannuation fund, I worked for the United Nations for over a decade in some of the most conflict affected countries globally, including: Somalia, Syria and Iraq. This experience led to my commitment never to invest my own superannuation in weapons manufacturing or sales. And because Australian women overwhelmingly don’t want their super invested in armaments,  at Verve we don’t invest our members’ money in the industry either.

Research shows that most Australians don’t want their money invested in companies that make weapons to kill. The question is, when will other superannuation funds do anything about it.