Jacinda Ardern 'not aware' her KiwiSaver scheme profited from Saudi military deals

STUFF
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is getting MFAT to check if Air New Zealand breached obligations under international law.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was not aware her KiwiSaver scheme was invested in companies which supplied weapons to the Saudi military.

Ardern ordered an inquiry into a deal under which Air New Zealand serviced engines for the Saudi Arabian navy, saying the deal did not pass the “sniff test”.

The war in Yemen is recognised as an international humanitarian crisis, and Air New Zealand has now cancelled the deal with the Saudi navy.

But even as Ardern was speaking on the Air New Zealand deal, her ANZ KiwiSaver provider, in which she has had money since at least 2015, owned shares in Britain’s BAE Systems, and two United States companies Textron and Raytheon, all three of which have supplied weapons to the Saudi military since Saudi Arabia became involved in the Yemen war.

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“I was not aware of this particular situation, but I understand ANZ has a review system for its investments and that it is taking another look and I think that’s a good thing to do,” Ardern said.

ANZ has now launched a review of its KiwiSaver fund holdings in the three companies.

“Given the New Zealand public’s view on recent matters related to Saudi Arabia and their involvement in the war in Yemen, ANZ NZ Investments has a review underway of any holdings we might have with companies that may supply components to their military,” ANZ said in a statement.

It confirmed it had holdings in the three companies, but said other KiwiSaver providers also had investments in the three companies.

ANZ KiwiSaver had moved, like many others, to exclude investments in makers of so-called controversial weapons, including cluster munitions, anti-personnel land-mines, biological and chemical weapons, ANZ said.

Former Green MP Barry Coates, founder of the Mindful Money KiwiSaver information website, called on Ardern to move her money to a weapons-free KiwiSaver fund.

”I think she probably should, in order to avoid situations like this where military weapons are used in situations where they cause severe human rights abuses,” Coates said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Air New Zealand deal supporting the Saudi Arabian navy does not pass the sniff test.
Ricky Wilson/Stuff
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Air New Zealand deal supporting the Saudi Arabian navy does not pass the sniff test.

Coates said some KiwiSaver schemes, including Booster, Simplicity, and CareSaver, had excluded investments in weapons makers.

The spotlight has fallen on companies supplying the Saudi military after US President Joe Biden blocked arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying the war in Yemen has to end as it had caused a humanitarian catastrophe.

BAE Systems, Raytheon and Textron have all made headlines in recent years over their deals with Saudi Arabia.

The Guardian newspaper said in a recent article on the United Kingdom’s refusal to follow Biden’s end on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, that: “BAE Systems, sold £15 billion-worth (NZ$28.9b) of arms to the Saudi Arabia over the five years of its intervention in Yemen, principally supplying and maintaining Tornado and Typhoon aircraft used in bombing missions.”

Mindful Money chief executive Barry Coates says there has been a lack of transparency in accessing information about what funds Kiwisaver providers had invested in.
Supplied
Mindful Money chief executive Barry Coates says there has been a lack of transparency in accessing information about what funds Kiwisaver providers had invested in.

In 2018, the BBC reported BAE earned a fifth of its revenue from Saudi Arabia.

Raytheon had to put a planned sale of missile systems to Saudi Arabia on pause as a result of Biden’s block on sales.

One of the companies invested in by the ANZ KiwiSaver scheme is a US company called Textron, which Sustainalytics, a global ethical investment researcher, says continues to be involved with “controversial weapons”.

Sustainalytics’ December report on Textron noted media reports of Textron cluster munitions being used in Yemen in 2016.

Textron told investors in late 2016 that it would cease making cluster munitions, saying sales had been falling as governments turned against their use.

Ardern appears to have been invested in the ANZ KiwiSaver throughout the duration of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemen war, with the scheme listed against her name in the 2015 register of pecuniary interests.

Sam Stubbs, founder of the Simplicity KiwiSaver scheme, said KiwiSaver schemes investing in companies that made weapons for repressive regimes did not feel like the Kiwi thing to do, and called on KiwiSaver providers to ditch their investments in weapons-makers.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and other countries, entered the war alongside Yemen’s internationally recognized government in March 2015. When this photo was taken in 2016, the war had already killed some 130,000 people and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
AP
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and other countries, entered the war alongside Yemen’s internationally recognized government in March 2015. When this photo was taken in 2016, the war had already killed some 130,000 people and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.

“It’s very easy to exclude weapons-makers from KiwiSaver,” Stubbs said. “At least five schemes have already done it. You have to ask the question why the others haven’t.”

In all 13 other MPs were listed as being invested in the ANZ KiwiSaver scheme including seven Labour MPs, and one Green Party MP.

They were: Chris Bishop (National), Paul Eagle (Labour), Raymond Huo (Labour), David Parker (Labour), Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Labour), Alastair Scott (National), Chloe Swarbrick (Green), Jan Tinetti (Labour), Rino Tirikatene (Labour), Nicky Wagner (National), Poto Williams (Labour), Nicola Willis (National), and Michael Woodhouse (National).

Any could have changed their KiwiSaver provider since the register of pecuniary interests came out in April last year. The 2021 MP’s register of pecuniary interests is yet to be published.