Dirty Power: Big Coal’s network of influence over the coalition government


In 2019 while much of the world is
taking decisive action on climate change Australia is going backwards. Carbon emissions have continued to rise since 2013. So how does the Australian coal
industry continue to get lucrative government decisions in its favor? How do the coal giants year after year,
Prime Minister after Prime Minister, maintain their coercive grip over
Australian politics? [TV voice] It’s go time and tonight I’m joined by
Michael West, a journalist and associate professor with Sydney
democracy network at Sydney University. What exactly have you been looking into? So you identify the networks of
influence for the coal sector. It’s going to be big, I mean this is the Australia’s
biggest export. Greenpeace’s investigation
unit worked with veteran journalist Michael West to expose the secretive
network behind coals dirty power. It’s a network centered around the world’s
biggest coal companies involving some of the wealthiest and most well-connected
people in Australia, who use established relationships within industry groups
lobbying and sections of the media to influence decisions at the highest level.
[TV voice] There seems to be some inconsistencies This going to end up
getting bigger I think. We need phone numbers and email addresses for everybody in Parliament House
basically because we need to know who is in the officers of all the key ministers but at the moment things are going well
of course we’re finding significant connections. Gina Rinehart is one prime
example. Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart is a coalition donor whose staff have
included former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella and Adam Giles, former Liberal
chief minister of the Northern Territory. Reinhart maintains a close relationship
with former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce whose campaigns she’s also helped fund. [Barnaby Joyce] “We believe in coal-fired power, we really do.” As co-owner of major coal mining
licences in the Galilee Basin, Rinehart stands to receive significant benefits
if the area is opened up via approval for the Adani carmichael mega coal mine
currently being pushed through by the coalition government. Adani recently
received government approval for its controversial groundwater plan despite
advice from the CSIRO. Responsibility for approval fell to an ex vice president at
a mining company owned by Mitsubishi development, co-owners of High Point coal
terminal, and a portfolio of Queensland coal mines. Having quit the mining
company in 2012 she became a Liberal MP the following year – that person is
Environment Minister Melissa Price. [TV reporter] Melissa Price’s office told an energy company she would request a review of how coal-fired power stations can earn money
from the government emissions reduction fund. Few ministers have been more vocal
advocates for coal expansion than federal resources Minister Matthew
Canavan Canavan’s own brother john Canavan, a
former executive at coal giant Peabody Energy, part owns Queensland’s Rolston
coal mine. Canavan has ministerial responsibility for the five billion
dollar northern Australia infrastructure facility fund on which five of the seven
board members have strong mining industry ties. The power of the pro coal
group inside the coalition including the influential right-wing Monash Forum
cannot be underestimated in 2018 they blocked Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed
climate law the national energy guarantee a move that subsequently
brought down his prime ministership Well the other influences well you have
in-house lobbying in each large corporation there are in-house
government relations people then you have the peak bodies such as the
minerals Council of Australia then you have the state minerals councils the
Queensland Resources Council the New South Wales minerals Council together
they’re extremely powerful. The past eleven years have seen mining industry groups in Australia receive over 400 million dollars in funding and the
largest and richest of them is the minerals Council of Australia which is
run by some of the world’s biggest coal In recent years the MCA has run
campaigns to dismantle a price on carbon and cut the renewable energy target. And their 22 million
dollar advertising blitz against the minerals resource rent tax played a key
role in the 2010 our sting of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Well the revolving doors issue is a
significant one [Toby Abbott speaking] “Ian MacFarlane was the resources minister who scrapped the
mining tax and I hope that the sector will acknowledge and demonstrate their
gratitude to him in his years of retirement from this place and
demonstrate their gratitude to him of retirement from this place.”
Coalition ties to the MCA run deep. John Cunkle is a former deputy CEO of the MCA and a
lobbyist for Rio Tinto. Within a week of becoming Prime Minister Scott Morrison
had appointed him as his chief of staff while Angus Taylor the current Energy
Minister consulted for the MCA before becoming an MP in 2017 Malcolm Turnbull
appointed Sid Morris an MCA director and former bureau chief at the Australian as
his senior advisor on energy climate change and resources. Maris returned to
the MCA last year following Morrison’s ousting of Turnbull. We’ve also
uncovered the pervasive influence of lobby groups around a billion dollars a
year spent and a good deal of that is spent by the coal industry. The point of
these Lobby firms is to be in the background to snake around the halls of
Parliament getting to know people putting the case for the clients. The
firm of the most power is Crosby Textor founded by Sir Linton Crosby former
federal director of the Liberal Party and Mark Textor liberals pollster and a
key figure in Tony Abbott’s rise to power.
Crosby Textor ran Abbott’s election campaign in 2013 as well as campaigns
for John Key, David Cameron and Theresa May. Crosby Textor’s corporate clients include coal giants Glencore and
Mitsubishi as well as the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration
Association and the Queensland Resources Council. In 2017 Crosby Textor ran a
campaign to undermine confidence in renewable energy on behalf of Glencore
it included spying on environmental groups and fabricating anti renewable
energy news stories. Yaron Finkelstein former CEO of Crosby
Textor was recruited by Scott Morrison as his principal private secretary, one of
his closest political advisors, while Andrew Hirst a former Crosby
texture director is now liberal party campaign director. LNP senator James
McGraw, former assistant minister to Malcolm Turnbull, was also a Crosby
Textor political operative. McGraw threatened to call for Melissa Price’s
resignation unless she approved the Adani Carmichael coal mine before the
2019 federal election. Well News Corp is Murdoch’s
media empire. I worked there for eight years as a columnist of the Australian
newspaper it’s got worse since I was there.
[TV voice] “What it really is it’s a global machine. Murdoch press is one of the most powerful
forces in some cases, almost like another political party.”
All the Murdoch interests worldwide be they Fox News or these UK newspapers especially
Australia are all pro fossil fuels and all of them questioned the science of
climate change. [TV voice] “Only reason anxiety is growing about
climate change is nothing to do with the climate nothing to do even with the
weather the reason anxiety is growing Andrew is
because the ABC and others keep telling people that we should be anxious.” But we’ve also found connections behind the scenes. Matthew Fines-Clinton, former editor at The Courier Mail is now Scott
Morrison’s speechwriter while Andrew Carswell former chief of
staff at The Daily Telegraph is his press secretary Clive Matheson former
editor of The Australian was Malcolm Turnbull’s top media advisor during his
term as prime minister. One link isn’t significant a number of
links and that significant but when you identify as this investigation is done a
raft of links and you look at the individuals of the worked for all these
people going from the coal Lobby the politics back to the coal Lobby you can
see that this network must have a powerful influence or the government and
the policies of government in this country. It’s the whole picture that is key to finding any of these points. You can see the power of this network play out, and a case in point is Trevor St. Baker, the
coal entrepreneur. he’s also a former director of the
Queensland Resources Council that’s the peak lobby group. So in 2015, St Baker’s
Sunset Power bought the Vales Point power station from the New South Wales
state government for just 1 million dollars. in 2017 Sunset Power revalued
this power station to 730 million dollars the 730
percent uplift in two years. Freedom of information documents show the Trevor St Baker lobbied the current environment minister Melissa Price about diverting
money from the emissions reduction fund to upgrade aging coal-fired power
stations like Vales Point. So another example is the fiasco of the
Great Barrier Reef foundation. Taxpayer’s money diverted to a tiny previously
unheard of body, to look after the Barrier Reef. In 2018 Josh Frydenberg and
Malcolm Turnbull gave four hundred and forty four million dollars in public
funds to the Great Barrier Reef foundation without a competitive tender
or application process. Chair of the foundation is John Schubert, an executive
of Esso, which is owned by oil giant Exxon. Other organizations with links to
the Great Barrier Reef foundation through its Chairman’s panel include
Peabody and BHP, both members of the MCA. If these are just two examples of we’ve
identified, what lies beneath how many other decisions have been made in favor
of the coal lobby? Unless enough people know about this and
enough people care and get involved in the political process, the power of the
coal lobby will continue. More coal will be burnt, climate change global warming,
we’re heading down that route because of the financial muscle and the
influence through these networks of the coal industry. This investigation shows what the
Australian people are up against. It should be a catalyst for action to clean
up our politics and end Australia’s reliance on dirty coal power. Visit act dot
GP slash dirty power for more information and share this video.

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