Another year, another $1m in political donations from fossil fuel companies

1 February 2018

Malcolm Turnbull’s personal donation of $1.75 million around the time of the 2016 Federal election may grab all the headlines, but the ongoing contributions to political parties by Australia’s largest fossil fuel companies may explain why our climate policies are so appallingly weak.

Fossil fuel companies donated $968,343 to the ALP, Liberal and National parties in 2016-17, which was slightly down from the $1.03m donated in 2015-16 and $1.94m in 2014-15 (which was also a Federal election year).

Woodside Energy once again led the pack with $279,800, followed by Wesfarmers with $198,000 and Origin Energy with $102,174. Check out the rest of the top ten in the table below, and explore the complete list of donations by fossil fuel companies further down the page.

Top 10 fossil fuel donors 2016-17

Company ALP LIB NAT Total
Woodside $135,500 $127,700 $16,600 $279,800
Wesfarmers $33,000 $165,000 $0 $198,000
Origin Energy $55,710 $33,539 $12,925 $102,174
Santos $35,321 $35,725 $28,670 $99,716
Chevron Australia $45,208 $25,210 $11,810 $82,228
Minerals Council of Australia $6,700 $31,945 $18,700 $57,345
Whitehaven Coal $0 $30,000 $0 $30,000
Aurizon $22,320 $0 $6,600 $28,920
Caltex Australia $20,912 $0 $5,130 $26,042
Asciano $22,000 $0 $0 $22,000

What about the rest?

The table below lists donations made by fossil fuel companies to major Australian political parties in the 2016-17 financial year. What we found amazing was not just the scale of donations from fossil fuel interests, but the discrepancies in donations that were reported by donors and parties.

Party Donor Donations disclosed by party Donations disclosed by company
ALP
Adani Mining Pty Ltd 2,200 NA
APA Group 1,100 NA
APPEA 12,350 NA
Asciano 22,000 NA
Aurizon Operations Limited 11,000 22,320
Caltex Australia Limited 12,500 20,912
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd 21,500 45,208
Energy Developments Limited 6,600 5,000
Minerals Council of Australia NA 6,700
Northern Oil 3,850 NA
Origin Energy 40,260 55,710
Qld Resources Council 5,500 NA
Santos Limited 29,260 35,321
South32 2,500 NA
St Baker Energy Innovation Fund 2,200 NA
Sunset Power International Pty Ltd 3,500 NA
The Chamber of Minerals & Energy of WA 2,000 NA
Wesfarmers Limited 33,000 NA
Woodside Energy 110,000 135,500
TOTAL 321,320 326,671
LIB
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd NA 25,210
Energy Developments Pty Ltd NA 318
Minerals Council of Australia NA 31,945
Origin Energy NA 33,539
Santos Limited NA 35,725
Wesfarmers Limited 150,000 165,000
Whitehaven Coal Limited NA 30,000
Woodside Energy Limited 110,000 127,700
TOTAL 260,000 449,437
NAT
Aurizon Holdings Ltd NA 6,600
Caltex Australia Limited NA 5,130
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd NA 11,810
Minerals Council of Australia NA 18,700
Origin Energy NA 12,925
Santos Limited NA 28,670
Woodside Energy Limited NA 16,600
TOTAL NA 100,435
TOTAL FOSSIL FUELS 581,320 876,543

Money well spent?

Despite the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) describing these payments as donations, companies have long claimed that they pay to attend to functions hosted by political parties.

At its AGM in October 2017, the board of Origin Energy were asked why it pays more to attend political functions than its ASX peers, and why it can’t influence policy outside of such events. Chairman Gordon Cairns responded that the state of energy policy today was largely due to their influence, and it was “money well spent”!

Given that Australia’s energy policy is nothing short of a train wreck, Origin Energy taking credit for it speaks volumes about the intention of its political lobbying.

Why the discrepancies?

Australia’s political disclosure laws are drastically inadequate, so much so that they’re currently the subject of a Senate inquiry. The consequences of our pathetic legislation are many:

  • Delayed reporting: learning about donations up to 18 months after they’re made
  • Party and donor returns not reconciling
  • Lack of standardisation of donor names
  • Donations hidden in associated entities

All of these issues contribute to the growing distrust that Australians have in our political system. It must be asked whether companies are making donations for access to politicians or to influence policy outcomes?

How do the numbers compare to previous years?

The tables below contain all the donations we were able to compile for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 financial years.

If you know of other sources for donations, please send us an email at contact@marketforces.org.au