Australia’s Great Gas Giveaway | Between the Lines

Independent senator David Pocock, Australia Institute Executive Director Richard Denniss and Independent Member for Kooyong Monique Ryan at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, May 30, 2024.
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas


This edition: Independents call out the gas industry and Australia’s consultant addiction continues

The Wrap with Ebony Bennett

Senator David Pocock made headlines last week when, in a press conference at Parliament House, he called gas companies “leeches” that are getting away with “state-sanctioned daylight robbery”.

As Dr Monique Ryan said, “We are allowing multinationals to take our oil and gas and sell it off overseas at massive, massive profits and not pay tax.”

New Australia Institute research shows that governments charge no royalties on 56 per cent of the gas that’s exported from Australia.

This means that Australians have missed out on at least $13 billion in royalties over the last four years.

Remember that figure next time governments tell you that they can’t afford to spend more on social housing, increasing Jobseeker or supporting victims of domestic violence.

Forced to deny it’s a parasite, the gas industry tried to point to the tax it pays on profits – through schemes like the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax – as evidence that it’s paying its fair share.

But these aren’t the same thing.

A brickie has to pay for their bricks and a restaurant has to pay for raw ingredients. They also pay tax on their profits.

Almost all businesses must pay for their inputs, but the gas industry isn’t paying for 56 per cent of the gas it exports.

This kind of cut-through research is our bread and butter here at the Australia Institute. But we don’t have the multi-billion dollar profits of the gas industry, our research is powered by donations from thousands of supporters.

That’s why we’ve launched our End of Financial Year Appeal. 

Four generous donors–Brian Snape, Ann Miller, Caroline le Couteur and the David Morawetz Social Justice Fund–have agreed to match every dollar donated to the Australia Institute Research Fund before 30 June 2024 until we reach our goal. It means your donation will be doubled – and so will your impact.

— Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Is Australia on a path to climate hell?

Climate & Energy Director Polly Hemming spoke to leading climate scientist Dr Joëlle Gergis about her new Quarterly Essay, ‘Highway to Hell’, which unpacks the Australian government’s climate policy inertia and visualises the impact of a changing climate on our cities and coastlines.

The Australia Institute is proud to have hosted Dr Gergis as its Writer in Residence for 2024.

If you want to join the pair for an in-depth conversation about the essay, you can sign up for our next Australia’s Biggest Book Club webinar at 11am on Friday 28 June. Book Club members can also receive $5 off the recommended retail price and free shipping within Australia.

Find out more >>

The fatal flaw in Australia’s renewable energy superpower plan

On paper, the government’s Future Made in Australia plan is a great idea, making Australia a renewable energy superpower, with more capacity to make clean energy at home and for export.

But simultaneously, the government is planning for “gas to 2050 and beyond”. It’s a contradiction that has the potential to undermine our aspirations to become a renewable energy superpower.

Polly Hemming, Director of the Climate & Energy Program at the Australia Institute, peels back the policy layers to expose the fatal flaw in the government’s energy plans.

Watch >>

Trump turning conviction into fundraising win

Last week, Donald Trump became the first former United States President to become a convicted felon. But that’s not deterring his supporters, Dr Emma Shortis writes for The Conversation.

In fact, Republican donors reportedly gave millions to the Trump campaign in the days after the election.

“Many things about his presidency and his political career are unprecedented,” Dr Shortis writes.

“It is now entirely possible Trump will be the first former president to win an election despite – or perhaps even because of – multiple criminal convictions.”


Australia’s consultant addiction continues

Public universities in Queensland and Victoria spent over $200 million on consultants in 2023, according to postdoctoral research fellow Alexia Adhikari.

The amount spent by public universities on consultants nationally was likely much higher, but because other states and territories don’t have the same transparency requirements as Queensland and Victoria, the exact figure is difficult to ascertain.

“For these core public institutions, increased transparency is critical to ensure the best use of public, and student money,” Adhikari said.

This addiction to consultants might’ve sounded familiar to Niccolò Machiavelli, writes Democracy & Accountability Program Director Bill Browne. Machiavelli railed against expensive, flashy contractors who bled the public purse in 16th century Italy.

Let’s face it, when the man who became a byword for cynicism and power-grabbing can’t stomach you, it’s probably time to take a look in the mirror.



How Australia created a housing crisis | Follow the Money

Australia is in the midst of a housing crisis, fuelled by poor government policy.

On this episode of Follow the Money, housing advocate and creator of Jordan van den Berg, Maiy Azize from national housing campaign Everybody’s Home, and Australia Institute Senior Economist Matt Grudnoff examine how Australia got itself into this situation – and what government can do to fix it.

Listen now:

Walking the inflation tightrope | Dollars & Sense

With interest rates refusing to fall below three per cent, some analysts are making dire assessments of the Australia economy. But while so-called ‘sticky’ inflation isn’t great, it’s better than risking a huge drop in demand and a deep recession, according to Greg Jericho.

On this episode of Dollars & Sense, Greg examines why inflation is refusing to budge and what policymakers can do about it.

Listen now:

The Quote

“Saying you’re the biggest payer of PRRT is like saying I’m the most attractive bloke in this room. Is it a big call? No, not really.”

— Greg Jericho in the 6PR studio on Woodside’s claim that it’s the biggest payer of Petroleum Resources Rent Tax in Australia.

The Win

Matildas keep smashing records

Monday night’s friendly in Sydney between the Matildas and China saw a record home turnout for Australia’s most loved sports team, with 76,798 punters turning up to the Olympic stadium to watch the squad’s final hit-out before Paris 2024.

The match was also a big winner with television and streaming audiences, showing the value of airing free-to-air sport on traditional and digital platforms. According to Media Week, the fixture was the most watched football match on Network 10, the network’s top event of the year, and the most-streamed football match on its streaming service, 10 Play.

New Australia Institute polling shows that the majority of Australians back digital free-to-air sports coverage. However, new anti-siphoning laws currently before parliament only give free-to-air broadcasters the first opportunity to acquire rights for traditional television coverage of sporting events — streaming isn’t covered.

“Given the rise of digital streaming, Australians rightly expect free-to-air sport to be available in the manner which they consume it. It is nonsensical in this day and age to differentiate between free-to-air television broadcast via aerial and free-to-air television broadcast by digital app,” said Rod Campbell, Australia Institute Research Director.

The Bin

Fast fashion waste

Australians are fuelling a fast fashion waste crisis, according to new Australia Institute research.

Aussies buy an average of 56 new clothing items a year, more than the US (53), UK (33 items) and China (30). Every year, over 300,000 tonnes of clothing is either sent to landfill or exported from Australia, according to report authors Nina Gbor and Olivia Chollett.

“We need to drastically reduce waste at the source by penalising brands mass-producing incredibly cheap and poor quality clothing that is often worn just a handful of times or never sells and goes straight to the tip,” Gbor said.

What’s On

Unequal Australia: What Went Wrong and How We Fix It | Richard Denniss National Speaking Tour

We’re coming to a city near you!

Join Richard Denniss to debunk the nonsensical economic arguments used to justify our ongoing failure to reduce inequality.

In this national tour, Richard will discuss the simple solutions available to any parliament that is serious about reducing poverty, making housing cheaper, reducing Australia’s emissions…or all of them at once.

Join the waitlist for sold-out events to be the first to find out about possible new dates.

Richard’s presentation to the 2024 Wilks Oration in Adelaide will also be livestreamed. Get your tickets to watch online.

Tour info >

Unparliamentary with Karen Middleton | 1pm AEST, Tuesday 11 June

Unparliamentary with Karen Middleton

Looking for the scoop on what’s happening in federal politics?

Unpack the big political and policy issues with Karen Middleton, political editor for Guardian Australia, in this edition of our Unparliamentary webinar series.


Our greatest ally? Zoe Daniel MP & Emma Shortis assess the US-Australia alliance | 10am AEST, Thursday 20 June

Our Greatest Ally_Daniel and Shortis_20 June

President Joe Biden has described as the upcoming presidential election as a “battle for the soul of America”.

How will Trump’s conviction, which made him the first former American president to be found guilty of a crime, change the campaign? What are the implications of this election for the rest of the world, and for Australia’s region in particular? And what are the risks and rewards of continuing to waltz in step with the world’s greatest superpower, no matter who is in charge?

Join Zoe Daniel, Independent Member for Goldstein, and Dr Emma Shortis, Senior Researcher in the Australia Institute’s International & Security Affairs Program, in conversation for this Australia Institute webinar.


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