Clean image, dirty truth | Between the Lines

Polly Hemming at the Senate greenwashing inquiry


This edition: The ‘gas shortage’ lie, government delays crucial environment reform and Musk a “friggin’ disgrace”

The Wrap with Ebony Bennett

Australia is in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis.

To address it, we need policies with integrity – not greenwashing and junk offsets.

You may have read about it in the news this week, but our Climate & Energy Director Polly Hemming gave evidence at the Senate Inquiry into Greenwashing, calling out Australia’s state-sponsored greenwashing.

Polly Hemming tells Senate committee companies at risk of 'state-sponsored greenwashing'

In 2022, the Australia Institute published a report called ‘State-sponsored Greenwash’ exposing the deliberate policy mechanisms that have led to fossil fuel companies in Australia being able to claim they are climate leaders.

In February last year, following a 4 Corners investigation into carbon credits in Papua New Guinea, we filed a complaint with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) about Climate Active, the Australian Government’s carbon neutral certification scheme, on the basis that the scheme may be breaching consumer law by promoting carbon neutral claims that have no basis.

Allan Fels, the former chair of the ACCC, was similarly concerned about the scheme, calling for an independent investigation.

The work of the Australia Institute has been instrumental in bringing national attention to greenwashing. Following Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s address to the Australia Institute’s 2023 Climate Integrity Summit, the Australian Greens announced the Senate Inquiry into Greenwashing.

Senator Sarah-Hanson Young speaks at the Climate Integrity Summit 2023

Which brings us to yesterday’s hearing.

It was revealed in the inquiry that the ACCC itself had warned Climate Active that its certification was misleading and that the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is currently carrying out a review of the scheme, in large part because of external criticism.

While we count this as a win, we’ve still got a Government actively subsidising and expanding the fossil fuel industry while businesses and consumers are expected to reduce their carbon footprint. This week’s inquiry has demonstrated that until the Australian Government stops its own greenwashing, it’s going to be very hard to hold the private sector to account.

— Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Climate Active program facilitating greenwashing

The Australian Government’s carbon neutral certification scheme, Climate Active, is entirely representative of Australia’s broader framework of state-sponsored greenwash, Climate & Energy Director Polly Hemming told a Senate inquiry this week.

“It is cheaper to greenwash in Australia than not,” Hemming told the inquiry. “It’s a really unfair situation for businesses who are trying to do the right thing.”

Watch the full recording of Polly Hemming and Richard Denniss’ appearance before the Greenwashing Inquiry here.

Read the submission >

Cries of WA ‘gas shortage’ just hot air

Over the weekend, the West Australian media once again tried to tell those on the west coast that there is a looming ‘gas shortage’. The Premier got involved too, encouraging oil and gas companies to “do something”.

The thing is, Western Australia is awash with gas. If WA was a country, it would be the third largest liquefied Natural gas (LNG) exporter in the world. So how is it possible that there is a “gas shortage”?

Simply put, 90% of WA’s gas is exported. Our research shows that the LNG industry exports 35 times more gas than WA uses for electricity generation. In fact, the LNG industry uses more than twice as much gas just processing gas for export as all the gas power stations in WA combined.

We put this full-page ad in the papers to show what’s really going on.

90% of WA's gas is exported, mostly royalty free

So if the issue is not a shortage of gas, what’s going on?

A Western Australian parliamentary inquiry has found these gas exporters have supplied just 8% of the 15% of gas they are meant to supply under the domestic gas reservation policy.

Simply requiring these companies to comply with their commitments under Western Australia’s domestic gas reservation policy would easily solve the problem.

As Mark Ogge explains, the confected gas shortage is a ruse by global oil and gas companies to gouge consumers and justify huge new climate-destroying export projects.

Read more >

Watch the full recording of Polly Hemming and Richard Denniss’ appearance before the Greenwashing Inquiry here.

While the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching for the fifth time in eight years, the Government has announced delays in reforming the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act, which will likely mean the current pipeline of at least 30 fossil fuel projects – including 25 coal mines and massive gas projects – are approved under existing laws.

Australia Institute research shows the 25 coal mines awaiting approval will create 12.6 billion tonnes of emissions. Waving through these approvals is incompatible with limiting dangerous climate change.

Executive Director Richard Denniss explains.

Watch >

Fire ants could cost Australia $22 billion

The Red Imported Fire Ant has the potential to become one of Australia’s most noxious invasive species and Australia’s national eradication program is not sufficiently resourced.

Australia Institute analysis showed that government-commissioned economic modelling has downplayed the risk fire ants pose, finding that even slight changes to the model’s assumptions elevate the case for eradication from marginal to compelling.

In a new report, Dr Minh Ngoc Le and Rod Campbell find that for every dollar spent eradicating the ants, the public benefit is between $3 and $9.

Read more >

Foreign policy crises could hurt Biden’s re-election chances

The withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russian invasion and Israel’s war on Gaza have all dominated headlines during Joe Biden’s first term.

But what does this mean for his bid for four more years as United States president?

Writing for The Conversation, Emma Shortis argues Biden’s approach to the Gaza crisis is undermining his carefully crafted public image.

Read more >


Making freedom of information “sexy” with Rex Patrick | Follow the Money

Freedom of Information laws have helped the public uncover information governments would prefer to keep secret, but the system is failing.

Strong Freedom of Information laws are critical to Australia’s democracy, but delays and government resistance are undermining people’s faith in the system.

On this episode of Follow the Money, former independent Senator for South Australia Rex Patrick and Australia Institute Senior Economist Matthew Grudnoff join Ebony Bennett to discuss why transparency matters and what can be done to improve the dire state of the system.

Listen now:

Backing the renewable horse | Dollars & Sense

The government is under fire for trying to ‘pick winners’, but green manufacturing could be the pony to get behind, says Greg Jericho.

The Australian Government wants to create a future that’s ‘made in Australia’, but can it really compete with the likes of China and the United States?

On this episode of Dollars & Sense, Greg explores whether the new Future Made in Australia strategy could spur on the renewable manufacturing sector – or if the government’s flogging a dead horse.

Listen now:

The Quote

“He’s a social media knob with no social conscience.”

— Senator Jacquie Lambie’s description of X owner Elon Musk, after X refused the Australian government’s request to remove graphic content from the platform.

The Win

Furious agreement over Musk

It’s not often that you see near-total agreement in the Australian parliament. But this week, all sides of politics came together in condemnation of X owner, Elon Musk.

Musk was described as a “megalomaniac”, a “cowboy” and a “friggin’ disgrace” by Australian pollies this week, after his company refused to comply with an order from Australia’s eSafety Commissioner to take down footage of the stabbing of an Assyrian bishop.

The Bin

HECS/HELP debts rising faster than people can pay them off

HECS/HELP indexation is sending those earning less than $66,000 backwards, according to new analysis by Australia Institute Chief Economist, Greg Jericho.

Hit with 7.1% indexation in 2022-23, and with this year’s figure expected to be 4.8%, those earning less than $66,000 per year will have a higher HECS debt after their repayments than they did two years ago.

Jericho says that ending the indexation of HECS/HELP debts would be a strong move to help young Australians, ensuring the system delivers truly interest free loans for students.

What’s On

Unparliamentary with Paul Karp | 1pm Tuesday 30 April

Unparliamentary with Paul Karp

Unparliamentary is the Australia Institute’s fortnightly show that gives you the scoop on what’s happening in federal politics.

Unpack the big political and policy issues with Paul Karp, chief political correspondent for Guardian Australia.


Australia’s Biggest Book Club: Bri Lee | 11am Tuesday 7 May

If love costs and art takes, what price do we pay for wanting it all?

The Work by Bri Lee is about the biggest intersections of life: of art and commerce, of intimacy and distance, of talent and entitlement, and of labour and privilege.


Call for Information

Almost half of Australia’s public universities have a centre or program funded by a fossil fuel company.

Do donations from fossil fuel companies influence the research conducted at Australian universities? Do they result in the publication of favourable research? Are fossil fuel companies buying the reputation of Australian universities? Are researchers pressured to produce results that make corporate donors look good?

The Australia Institute is looking to answer these questions and we want your help. If you have any information, data or experience that can contribute to our understanding, please contact us at

Thank you for supporting the Australia Institute. We’re ready to tackle some massive issues this year and we couldn’t do it without supporters like you.

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