Australia’s major political parties, brought to you by fossil fuels!

February 2020

Every year, Australian governments and their departments spend billions of dollars of your money so that more coal, gas and oil can be extracted and burned. Favourable decisions include:

Meanwhile, drought and extreme temperatures are fast becoming the new normal.

So how has the fossil fuel industry come to enjoy such a cosy relationship with our politicians? A trawl of the latest political donations data, released on 3 February, offers some clues.

political donations 2020 top 10

Fossil fuel donations up 48%

In 2018-19, fossil fuel companies donated $1,897,379 to the ALP, Liberal and National parties. This was up 48% from $1,277,933 in 2017-18 ($968,343 in 2016-17, $1.03 million in 2015-16).

Yet given Australia’s reputation for woefully inadequate political disclosure and ‘dark money’ donations, the true figure could be 5-10 times higher. Like last year, we found big discrepancies between what the major political parties disclosed, and how much the fossil fuel companies claimed to have gifted.

Leading the pack in 2018-19 with $283,340 worth of largesse was Woodside Energy, followed by Adani with $247,300 and Mineral Resources with $167,000.

Check out the table below to see how much the other top 10 fossil fuel donors splurged, and explore the full list of industry donations further down.

To help Market Forces keep producing research like this and calling out politicians and their fossil fuel paymasters, please consider becoming a regular supporter today.

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Top 10 fossil fuel donors 2018-19

Company ALP LIB NAT Total
Woodside $135,400 $136,750 $11,190 $283,340
Adani $0 $125,500 $121,800 $247,300
Mineral Resources $62,000 $85,000 $20,000 $167,000
APPEA $77,467 $60,262 $23,930 $161,659
Minerals Council of Australia $83,996 $62,250 $9,194 $155,440
Santos $72,570 $40,654 $38,200 $151,424
Chevron $54,600 $53,125 $16,960 $124,685
Origin Energy $53,010 $32,390 $17,775 $103,175
Alinta Energy $57,000 $20,000 $25,000 $102,000
The Trustee for St Baker Family Trust $52,620 $27,500 $16,500 $96,620

What about the rest?

The table below lists donations made by fossil fuel companies to major Australian political parties in the 2018-19 financial year. What we found astonishing was not just the scale of donations, but the discrepancies between what donors and parties actually reported. The total discrepancy in reporting came to $834,279!

Party Donor Donations disclosed by party Donations disclosed by company
ALP
Alinta Servco Pty Ltd $34,500 $57,000
APA Group $15,700 $15,975
Australia Pacific LNG $3,960 NA
APPEA $70,800 $77,467
Buru Energy $1,200 NA
Caltex Australia Ltd $8,100 $14,200
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd $18,600 $54,600
Liberty Oil Corporation Pty Ltd $5,500 NA
Mineral Resources $62,000 $50,000
Minerals Council of Australia $45,750 $83,996
Northern Oil & Gas Australia Pty Ltd $19,250 NA
Origin Energy $40,500 $53,010
Port of Newcastle $37,000 $51,000
QER $12,700 NA
Queensland Resources Council $12,870 NA
Santos $72,570 $69,500
Senex Energy $11,000 NA
South32 $7,500 NA
Southern Oil Refining $19,975 NA
The Chamber of Minerals & Energy of WA $43,500 NA
The Trustee for St Baker Family Trust $52,620 $40,450
Woodside Energy $120,000 $135,400
TOTAL $715,595 $702,598
LIB
Adani $100,000 $125,500
Alinta Servco Pty Ltd NA $20,000
APPEA NA $60,262
Australian Pipelines & Gas Association $27,500 NA
Caltex Australia Limited NA $14,606
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd NA $53,125
Mineral Resources $50,000 $85,000
Minerals Council of Australia $62,250 $53,540
Origin Energy NA $32,390
Santos $27,500 $40,654
The Chamber of Minerals & Energy of WA $25,000 NA
The Trustee for St Baker Family Trust $27,500 $17,500
Whitehaven Coal Limited NA $17,500
Woodside Energy $110,000 $136,750
TOTAL $429,750 $656,827
NAT
Adani $100,000 $121,800
Alinta Servco Pty Ltd NA $25,000
APPEA $17,160 $23,930
Caltex Australia Limited NA $1,500
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd NA $16,960
Mineral Resources $20,000 $20,000
Minerals Council of Australia NA $9,194
Origin Energy NA $17,775
Santos NA $38,200
The Trustee for St Baker Family Trust $16,500 $16,500
Woodside Energy NA $11,190
TOTAL $153,660 $302,049
TOTAL FOSSIL FUELS $1,299,005 $1,661,474

Money well spent?

At Origin Energy’s 2017 AGM, shareholders asked the board why Origin pays more to attend political functions than its ASX peers, and why can’t it influence policy outside of such events. Chairman Gordon Cairns responded that the state of energy policy 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.

Chevron: the worst of a bad bunch?

Perhaps one of Australia’s most egregious examples of corporate fossil fuel behaviour is Chevron. It paid zero company tax in Australia over the three years to 2018 according to the latest Australian Taxation Office (ATO) data.

Meanwhile Chevron Australia gave $124,685 to Australia’s major political parties in FY2019.

In 2017, Chevron was ordered to pay more than $300 million in taxes after being pursued by the ATO. Jason Ward from the Tax Justice Network told the ABC: “It sends a clear message to Chevron and other multinationals that these tax dodging schemes won’t be allowed any longer.”

Chevron offshore platform

Chevron’s influence is having a direct impact on our climate too – half of Australia’s annual CO2 emissions increase in 2018 was linked to a failed carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project in Western Australia. This so-called ‘Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection project’ is backed by a $60 million federal government direct subsidy  paid for by your tax dollars. 

Why is donations disclosure such a mess?

The discrepancies in donations reported by donors and parties is the tip of the iceberg. Australia’s political disclosure laws are incredibly lax, so much so that in 2018 they were the subject of a Senate inquiry and a damning report by the Grattan Institute. The Centre for Public Integrity estimates that more than $100 million in donations were not disclosed in 2018-19, with the Liberal and National parties hiding about 40% of income and Labor hiding about 28% over two decades. 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
  • Donors can ‘split’ donations into small amounts that parties don’t have to disclose

All this adds to the ever-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?

“Small groups of carbon-intensive firms, who would inevitably suffer most under a sound, national-interest policy proposal, were able to lobby much more powerfully than large groups like taxpayers or consumers, and arguably changed the proposal into something which better protects their special interests.”Pezzey, Mazouz & Jotzo, 2010

How do the numbers compare to previous years?

The tables below contain all donations we were able to compile for the 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years. If you know of other donation sources, please send us an email at [email protected]

Party Donor Donations disclosed by party Donations disclosed by company
ALP
Alinta Servco Pty Ltd $3,000 $68,500
APA Group $3,850 NA
APPEA $25,075 NA
Aurizon $11,000 NA
Australian Drilling Industry Association $1,350 NA
Brian Flannery $2,000 NA
Caltex Australia Limited $19,800 $44,138
Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia $13,500 NA
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd $34,550 $59,000
Energy Developments Pty Ltd $5,480 NA
Mineral Resources Limited $3,000 NA
Minerals Council of Australia $40,500 $41,200
Origin Energy $38,500 $54,500
Qld Resources Council $5,500 NA
Santos $77,260 $85,610
Senex Energy $36,500 $20,000
Woodside Energy $110,000 $117,700
TOTAL $430,865 $490,671
LIB
Adani Mining Pty Ltd NA $35,000
Alinta Servco Pty Ltd NA $25,000
Brian Flannery $20,000 $20,000
Caltex Australia Limited $27,500 $52,769
Cartwheel Resources $36,000 $52,864
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd NA $51,219
Minerals Council of Australia $27,500 $43,250
Origin Energy $27,500 $39,670
Santos $42,500 $71,973
Senex Energy $15,400 $15,400
The Trustee for St Baker Family Trust $50,000 $50,000
Whitehaven Coal Limited $25,000 $35,000
Woodside Energy $118,500 $8,500
TOTAL $381,400 $610,645
NAT
Alinta Servco Pty Ltd NA $25,250
Chevron Australia Pty Ltd NA $11,660
Minerals Council of Australia NA $10,450
Origin Energy NA $16,425
Santos NA $24,500
Woodside Energy NA $1,100
TOTAL $0 $89,385
TOTAL FOSSIL FUELS $812,265 $1,190,678