Corporate sponsorships and fossil fuels

by Bill Browne

Questacon – Canberra’s science and technology communication centre – introduces children and adults to scientific concepts in an accessible, interactive way. It was established by the Australian National University and has always relied on government funding. It has also been funded by corporate sponsors, including oil and gas companies Shell and Inpex – despite the clear message from climate scientists that fossil fuels must stay in the ground to prevent runaway climate change.

There are concerns that these sponsorships have influenced how Questacon educational material have been presented, including the contradictory notion that fossil fuels are a necessary bridge for the transition away from fossil fuels (see here and here).

Last year’s Budget included $10 million for Questacon, in part to compensate it for winding up the Shell and Inpex sponsorship deals. The Inpex sponsorship was worth $1 million over four years, and in its last two years the Shell sponsorship was worth $750,000. The fact that another $60 million of public money has been allocated for Questacon in this budget (and $15 million per year after that) hammers home the point that corporations love to see their logos on public institutions, but it is always the public that pays the lion’s share.

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