1 February 2018
Malcolm Turnbull’s personal donation of $1.75 million around the time of the 2016 Federal election may have grabbed 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 list of donations since 2014 by fossil fuel companies further down the page.
Top 10 fossil fuel donors 2016-17
|Minerals Council of Australia||$6,700||$31,945||$18,700||$57,345|
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|
|Adani Mining Pty Ltd||2,200||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|
|Qld Resources Council||5,500||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|
|Chevron Australia Pty Ltd||NA||25,210|
|Energy Developments Pty Ltd||NA||318|
|Minerals Council of Australia||NA||31,945|
|Whitehaven Coal Limited||NA||30,000|
|Woodside Energy Limited||110,000||127,700|
|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|
|Woodside Energy Limited||NA||16,600|
|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 in 2018 they were 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 [email protected]