The fossil fuel industry has continued to pump money into politics, buying huge amounts of influence in Canberra even as it faces existential threat around the world. This follows a record year for fossil fuel donations, which dominated the 2019 federal election.
Once again the biggest donor was Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy, donating $5.9 million to his United Australia Party. But Palmer’s actions are out of step with most companies.
Woodside Petroleum was the second biggest single contributor, with $335,000 handed to the major parties in disclosed donations — an increase of $52,000 from the year before.
As Crikey has previously reported, Woodside usually leads the pack when it comes to political donations. It has poured almost $2 million into political pockets over the past two decades. And it has a lot to show for it, riding a wave of favourable decisions such as a recent $8.8 million grant to advise the government on how best to clean up its own abandoned oil rig in the Timor Sea.
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The latest donations data shows that the industry is happy to play both sides of the political aisle in order to get what it wants. The Minerals Council of Australia, which represents coal miners Glencore and New Hope as well as BHP and Rio Tinto, handed $145,000 to the major parties.
The strategy appears to be paying off, with the government putting gas at the centre of its energy policy, and Labor tearing itself apart over a lack of a clear climate action policy.
Santos, one of the biggest winners in the government’s “gas-led recovery plan”, donated $110,000 to the major parties. Santos won approval for its highly controversial gas project in Narrabri in October, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Resources Minister Angus Taylor throwing their support behind the project even before it was signed off on by the NSW Independent Planning Commission.
And Chevron, which in 2019 successfully lobbied the WA government to scrap carbon emissions guidelines for resources companies, donated $90,000 to the major parties for the 2019-20 financial year.
In many ways it’s business as usual for the resources sector, named the biggest political donors in the country last month in a report by the Centre for Public Integrity.
According to the report, the industry spent $137 million on political donations in the past 20 years, not including undisclosed donations under $14,000 or donations that have been paid through third-party lobby groups.