MAC: Mines and Communities

Australia: The revolving door between politicians and the mining lobby

Published by MAC on 2016-03-10
Source: The Guardian

Eastern Star Gas, Whitehaven Coal, AGL Energy, Adani and BHP Billiton are some of the companies that fund the revolving door between politicians and the mining and gas lobby in Australia, according to Queensland Greens' Senator Larissa Waters.

Ban donations from mining companies and stop ministers working for them

The extractive industry’s influence on politics is disproportionate to the contribution the sector makes to employment, writes Senator Larissa Waters.

1 March 2016

In Australian politics, there is a revolving door that swings round and round, fuelled by money and self-interest.

Into it go former politicians and their staffers and out pop even more highly paid mining company executives and fossil fuel lobbyists.

The list of former politicians and staffers who’ve scored cushy positions in the fossil fuel sector is depressingly long – I’ve listed just some of them that I’m aware of below.

The revolving door in part explains why there has never been a coal mine or gas project refused under our federal laws.

The massive political donations, made by this desperate industry trying to cling on through taxpayer subsidies, make up another reason for the tick-and-flick approach.

A very generous $3.7m was tipped into the pockets of the federal Liberal, National and Labor parties in the last three years – and much more when you include donations made at branch and state levels.

Such large amounts of money buys influence, and buys favourable policy settings for this dying industry. For every dollar of their $3.7m contribution to the election warchests of the big parties, they get more than $2,000 back from the taxpayer purse.

They get cheap fuel for their trucks and generators, accelerated depreciation on their assets and a tax break to do production and exploration, along with direct cash handouts.

If you tally that up, you get about $14bn over four years. The Greens have put forward a costed proposal to remove those handouts and raise much needed revenue for health, education and clean energy.

Because why should taxpayers pay $14bn to companies that are cooking our planet, ruining our land and water, tearing apart communities and threatening locals’ health?

Why indeed, when there are clean energy alternatives that are more job rich, have a long term future in the transitioning global economy, and don’t wreck the place?

The influence of these pervasive fossil fuel donations on our political system has left the job-rich clean energy industry to deal with the investment uncertainty created by a government ruled by climate dinosaurs.

And despite the change of prime minister and the talk of agility and innovation, the revenue-positive Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which supports cutting-edge, genuinely innovative technology, are both on the Turnbull government’s chopping block.

Now is the time to be increasing public investment in job-rich clean energy to take advantage of the global transition that is already happening, while Australia is missing out.

The revolving door between politicians and the mining lobby needs to be slammed shut and political donations from fossil fuel companies must come to an end.

The Greens have legislation before the Senate to ban donations from fossil fuel companies, as well as property developers and the tobacco, liquor and gambling industries in the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Donations Reform) Bill 2014.

It’s also our policy to tighten the rules, including by establishing a commissioner of lobbying, an independent body similar to the one in Canada, which would have audit and investigative power, and imposing a five-year ban on ex-ministers working as lobbyists.

The revolving door

Former politicians:

Political staffers:

Queensland Senator Larissa Waters is the Australian Greens deputy leader and climate change spokesperson.

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