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Why Wesfarmers Should Remain Blacklisted

Australia Western Sahara Association

Press Release 19 October - for immediate release

Why Wesfarmers Should Remain Blacklisted

The Australia Western Sahara Association say Wesfarmers’ reported intention to stop its controversial imports of phosphates from Western Sahara for a year is not enough to warrant removal of the blacklist by ethical fund holders.

Cate Lewis of AWSA said “This is definitely a step in the right direction but the commitment must be to suspend trade until the conflict over the disputed territory is resolved and a referendum of self-determination is held.”

Wesfarmers fertiliser subsidiary, CSBP, has been importing Western Sahara’s phosphate for over 20 years with the profits going directly to Morocco contrary to UN rules on non-self-governing countries.

Following approaches by ethical investment advisers, AWSA and others, Wesfarmers announced in its Annual Report 2012 that it had developed a new industrial process allowing it to use phosphate from other sources to make its product.

AWSA says a stronger message needs to be sent to Morocco if it is to stop human rights abuses identified by recent official visitors, including the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, and the R F Kennedy Human Rights Center.

The local people continue to protest the plunder of their natural wealth while the Moroccan king grows richer. Western Sahara Resource Watch estimates the value of phosphate exports to reach US$400 million in 2012.

The trade in phosphate from Bou Craa mine in Western Sahara is illegal, unethical and unjust.

• illegal because this phosphate is not Morocco's to sell

• unethical because it prolongs the conflict by appearing to endorse Morocco's brutal occupation

• unjust because the Saharawis do not consent nor do they benefit. Instead those living under Moroccan rule suffer daily human rights abuses, while the refugees living in the harsh Algerian desert on "emergency" food aid suffer in the sand storms and searing heat just waiting for the world to solve this long-running conflict.

AWSA will be leafleting guests attending a lunch at Zinc in Federation Square 12-2pm where Wesfarmers CEO Richard Goyder will speak on the topic: The virtuous marriage of ethics and the profit motive – How Wesfarmers does it.

"We want to support the Saharawi claim to their country and its phosphate which Morocco plunders in collaboration with the Australian fertiliser industry. Wesfarmers has the opportunity to lead this industry down a more ethical route. “We look forward to hearing that the company, which is marking itself out as a potential industry leader, will make the final commitment to give up trading the product until the conflict in Western Sahara is resolved”, says AWSA.

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