The fossil fuel lobby was on such intimate terms with the Howard Government and worked so assiduously to see it re-elected that many assumed it would lose influence once Labor took government.
That was certainly my view when I crafted my first list of members of the Greenhouse Mafia in 2006, 12 people I dubbed the “dirty dozen”; but how wrong I was.
The fossil fuel lobby has shown itself to be highly adaptable, seamlessly shifting from a strategy of blocking carbon abatement policies to watering them down and turning them to its advantage when they become inevitable.
The best-organised and most effective lobby group Canberra has ever seen, the “greenhouse mafia” had been laying the groundwork for a change of government over several years. It had the advantage that Labor shared its view of what Guy Pearse calls “quarry vision”, the belief that Australia’s future depends heavily on expanded exploitation of natural resources.
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The members of the greenhouse mafia had mostly cut their teeth in the Australian Public Service under the Hawke and Keating Governments. Some of them were Labor advisers.
They have succeeded brilliantly in making the Rudd Government as much their captive as the Howard Government was. They even have a point man in the Cabinet.
So who are they?
After consulting a number of insiders, the people listed below are those who in my judgment have done more than all others in recent times to protect the interests of the fossil fuel industries by blocking and slowing effective action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Here’s the new dirty dozen:
1. Mike Hitchens, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN). The AIGN is the central lobby group representing the interests of the big polluters. Like many of the “greenhouse mafia”, Hitchens came out of the Department of Primary Industry and Energy (DPIE) and maintains strong links with the Canberra bureaucracy.
2. Miles Prosser, Executive Director, Australian Aluminium Council. The aluminium industry is one of the biggest recipients of hand-outs under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Prosser previously worked for the forest industry lobby.
3. Don Voelte, Managing Director and CEO, Woodside Energy. For years Woodside has been one of the most active and influential corporations on greenhouse policy and has won huge concessions under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
4. Tom Albanese, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto, one of the country’s top coal exporters and a big aluminium producer. A global corporation at the heart of Australia’s carbon-intensive industries, Rio Tinto is perhaps the foremost funding source for the “greenhouse mafia”.’
5. Heather Ridout, Executive Director, Australian Industry Group. As Labor’s favourite business lobbyist she comes across as the voice of reason, but she has worked hard to weaken greenhouse gas abatement policies to “protect industry”. Read the Australian Industry Group submission to the Senate Select Committee Inquiry on Climate Policy.
6. Paul Howes, National Secretary, Australian Workers Union. Along with the CFMEU, the AWU has worked closely with the fossil fuel lobby to water down greenhouse policies to protect the coal and electricity industries.
7. Ralph Hillman, Executive Director, Australian Coal Association. Formerly Ambassador for the Environment under the Howard Government, Hillman protected Australia’s fossil fuel interests as part of Australia’s international negotiating team. He now does so more transparently as the head of the primary coal lobby group.
8. John Tilley, Executive Director, Australian Institute of Petroleum. Along with APPEA, AIP represents big oil in Canberra. Tilley formerly worked in DPIE and has strong links with policy-makers in the bureaucracy.
9. John Daley. A former head of the AIGN, Daley is a registered lobbyist for Woodside, CSR (aluminium interests) and APPEA. From the mid-1990s he has been a fierce and well-connected advocate for fossil interests.
10. Brian Fisher, CEO, Concept Economics. For many years Fisher headed ABARE, the government agency that analysed greenhouse policy using models that consistently seemed to show that cutting emissions would be ruinous. The modelling was partly funded by the big polluters. He now provides economic modelling advice used by groups such as the Minerals Council of Australia to make scary claims about the economic damage of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Here’s the CEO of the Minerals Council Mitch Hooke using modelling by Fisher in a piece in The Australian headlined ‘Carbon plan will cause jobs carnage’ and here’s Fisher warning that farmers will suffer under the ETS.
11. Chris Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief, The Australian. Mitchell actively promotes the views of climate sceptics thereby sowing doubt about climate science and strengthening the hand of those in Canberra who want to slow action. This month Mitchell received an award for “media excellence” from APPEA.
12. Martin Ferguson, Minister for Energy and Resources. Has consistently taken the part of the fossil industries and has expressed sceptical views about climate change. Ferguson attended the 2007 book launch for former WMC executive Ray Evan’s Nine Facts About Climate Change. Evans, who was also involved in founding the HR Nicholls Society, Bennelong Society and the climate change sceptics, the Lavoisier Society, attacks what he calls the “global warming scam”. “I don’t know about global cooling, but I’ll know about global warming in the Labor Party caucus if I don’t watch my Ps and Qs this afternoon,” Mr Ferguson said. In April Andrew Bolt urged Ferguson to come out of the climate sceptic “closet.”