The Wilderness Society had a major win in lobbying ANZ to walk away from its long-term role as lead banker to Gunns, but this doesn’t mean the $2 billion Tamar Valley pulp mill is dead.

In a truly globalised world, there are literally hundreds of financiers who could step up for Gunns. For instance, no-one in Australia would touch Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest after the Anaconda Nickel fiasco so he went to New York and got backing from little-known investors such as Leucadia National Corporation and Harbinger, which together are now enjoying paper profits of more than $7 billion.

Get-Up yesterday ran full page advertisements in newspapers attempting to scare other potential pulp mill financiers away, but in a globalised world that is not an easy thing to do. There is talk that Macquarie Bank will step up, possibly by under-writing a Gunns equity raising and, of course, there is still Australia’s biggest construction company Leighton which has the contract to build the mill.

Having a bad name doesn’t stop you from getting finance. After all, who would have thought anyone would bank Australia’s most notorious corporate crook, Alan Bond? It turns out that Credit Suisse lent his Madagascar Oil play $85 million in March this year.

It is hard to imagine the Australian Shareholders’ Association mustering its members to rally at the Credit Suisse Australian headquarters on level 41 of 101 Collins Street in Melbourne.

However, there was an opportunity to bag Joe Raby, the “chairman emeritus” of Credit Suisse, on Friday because he is a Babcock & Brown director who was beamed in by satellite from New York to the AGM.

Acting Babcock chair Elizabeth Nosworthy responded with one of the most dismissive slapdowns I’ve ever copped at an AGM, but at least Chairman Joe got the message and Bondy got a public serve.

Here’s hoping Bondy doesn’t sue in the same way he pursued Paul Barry for his News Ltd stories last year, by using the Trade Practices Act.

Bond’s initial case was thrown out of court on the basis that he had no reasonable chance of success, but he then won leave to appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court. That was heard two weeks ago, and the judges have reserved their decision. A result is shortly, but even if he wins, all he gets is the right to have his case heard.

The defeat of John Howard will usher in an era of greater corporate responsibility in Australia, so there are numerous other ethics issues that will emerge in the months ahead.

For instance, can the ALP continue to run 500 poker machines at its various Labor Clubs in Canberra when Prime Minister Rudd is on the record saying he hates them and wants to do something about the damage caused by pokies?

The same goes for Woolies, which surely can’t sustain the damage caused by its dangerous 11,000 poker machines across the country.

Check out the new anti-pokies website

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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