While you can’t put a price on the people, animals and ecosystems lost during Australia’s current bushfire crisis, we can assume that recovery costs will reach well into the tens of billions.
The world has responded with an outpouring of donations, support and relief efforts, with several notable individuals and businesses leading the charge and gaining much publicity along the way. Good on them.
But is that the full picture?
Crikey runs the ruler over who is giving what, how much they’re worth (and how they made their money), and how they’re contributing to the climate crisis.
Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest
Donated: $10 million to Red Cross/Salvation Army; $10 million for a volunteer relief army of miners and agriculture workers; and $50 million for a “fire fund” resilience blueprint (with a goal to raise upwards of $500 million for the “non-political” scheme). The caveat: arsonists did more than global heating to create the fires, right?
Net worth: $12.7 billion (source: Forbes, Jan 2020).
Notable contributions: The chairman and former CEO of Fortescue Metals, Twiggy campaigned strongly against the mining tax. After overseeing $9.1 billion in sales across 2014-15, for a taxable income of $208 million he paid just $13.2 million. He also made news last year for losing a Federal Court appeal over a Pilbara native title fight.
Donated: $1 million via the Pratt Foundation.
Net worth: $11.1 billion (source: Forbes, Jan 2020).
Notable contributions: While the packaging and recycling baron has campaigned on climate change for well over a decade, Pratt has also done what he can to campaign for his good friend and noted wrecker of climate policy Donald Trump.
Donated: That’s not for us to know (but trust her, she’s done it).
Net worth: $22.5 billion (source: Forbes, Jan 2020).
Notable contributions: Campaigned against mining and carbon taxes; gave denialist think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs $4.5 million between 2016 and 2017; came out last week to dismiss climate change and blame “true causes” of the fires (i.e. dam restrictions).
Donated: A helicopter, a pilot, and large sea vessels.
Net worth: $2.6 billion (source: Forbes, Jan 2020).
Notable contributions: Helped repeal the carbon price; spent $60 million on a pro-United Australia Party, anti-Labor advertising ahead of the 2019 election.
Donated: $1 million and technical support from Amazon.
Net worth: $168.7 billion (source: Forbes, Jan 2020).
Notable contributions: Amazon has previously partnered with BP to migrate the petroleum company’s digital enterprise to “the cloud”, a move that both helps to accelerate oil production and, according to Amazon’s PR, “helps fight climate change”. Meanwhile, Amazon Australia managed to pay just $20 million tax on over $1 billion in revenue in 2018.
Donated: $2 million to the Red Cross; special leave for employee firefighter volunteers; $30,000 to Mallacoota relief; and $2 donation for every $1 donated by employees to Red Cross, RFS, SA Fire, WIRES and RSPCA.
Net worth: $198.9 billion (source: YCharts, Jan 9 2020).
Notable contributions: BHP is the world’s largest mining company and, in the words of Bob Carr, something of a “paradox” on climate action. Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has pledged to decarbonise by mid-century, and BHP has been an outlier in publicly calling for a carbon price since at least 2011. However, the company “welcomed” the repeal of Gillard’s scheme, supports the Kyoto “credit cheat”, and produces millions of tonnes of C02 equivalent every year.
Notable contributions: I mean, where do you start? Normalisation of global climate denialism and disinformation; tax avoidance; fear-mongering over carbon price/Labor’s energy policy/any meaningful action; Tony Abbott.
The Big Four banks
Donated: NAB: $5 million; Westpac: $1.5 million and a mortgage relief package; ANZ: $1.5 million; CBA: $11.2 million (including bushfire recovery grants, a Red Cross donation, and just over $1 million for Shane Warne’s baggy green).
Notable contributions: All four have paid lip service to decreasing fossil fuel exposure; in large part, they have failed.
Donated: A nice tweet wishing everyone in Australia a safe and happy new year.
Net worth: Gautam Adani: $22.7 billion (source: Forbes, August 2019).
Notable contributions: Adani’s attempt to open the largest coal mine in the southern hemisphere has helped poison Australia politics for a decade now.
ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Rio Tinto
Donated: ExxonMobil: $4 million and support vessels; Chevron and Rio Tinto: $1 million each.
Notable contributions: Carbon emissions. Exxon’s attempts to discredit climate science dates back to the 1970s and are so extensive they have their own Wikipedia page. Chevron has lobbied against climate action and has been accused of deliberately mismanaging a carbon capture project for which taxpayers paid them $60 million, while Rio has tut-tutted lobby groups without exiting them.
Donated: The Business Council has called on members to donate and/or offer paid leave to volunteers; the Mineral Council’s secretariat has donated $20,000 to the Red Cross and published a list of member donations here.
Notable contributions: Both pay lip service to climate action while actively campaigning against meaningful carbon and mining taxes, including, in 2017, the WA Nationals’ mining tax. Recently, they both embarrassed themselves by publicly supporting the Coalition’s carryover credit cheat.