The Uniting Church has secured victory in a long-running campaign to convince ANZ Bank to stop funding companies involved in the production of cluster munitions.

An international treaty banning cluster bombs came into effect on 1 August. Australia is a signatory to the treaty but has yet to ratify it — although most major producers of the munitions did not sign it. Unexploded bomblets can cause civilian deaths and loss of limbs for years after the munition is used and the relevant conflict is over — with children frequently the victims.

ANZ was reported to have been a member of a large banking syndicate providing a revolving credit facility for Lockheed Martin, a manufacturer of the weapons. As Antony Loewenstein has also shown, ANZ is providing funding to aerospace/weapons manufacturer L3.

The Uniting Church, with support from Greenpeace, has been engaged in a quiet campaign to force ANZ to not merely cease providing borrowing for the production of cluster munitions — a long-standing ANZ policy — but end its links with the weapons altogether. Crikey understands that a fortnight ago, ANZ advised Church campaigners of its decision to sever its links following a “Military Equipment Review”. The bank’s new policy is that it:

“will not be involved with direct financing or contract bonding related to the sale or manufacturing of controversial weapons (specifically cluster munitions and anti-personnel land mines)” and “does not wish to be involved more broadly with customers that are involved in the production of components designed for specific use in these weapons.”

Lockheed Martin had previously told the bank it would phase out cluster munition production by 2013 when existing contracts were completed. ANZ has now also secured assurances from L3 Communications that it is no longer manufacturing cluster munitions components such as fuses.

The Uniting Church is sufficiently pleased with ANZ’s decision that it is calling off its campaign.

ANZ this morning confirmed the decision to Crikey. “Our previous military equipment policy explicitly prohibited the bank from providing direct funding for the production of cluster munitions by defence sector clients,” a bank spokesperson said. “However, some stakeholders formed the view that ANZ’s financial involvement with some defence companies meant that we were indirectly supporting the production of these controversial weapons.

As a result of this review, a number of changes have been made which seek to specifically address this issue.”

The bank attracted criticism a fortnight ago when its involvement in funding the recommissioning of an old coal-fired power plant in WA was revealed. The bank had tried to keep its involvement confidential after the  revelations that it was the biggest funder of coal-fired power in Australia. The bank made no announcement about its review of its military equipment policy. However, the spokesman said, “we have at all times worked closely with our clients and those key stakeholders that have raised this issue.”