Money trail and special access linked to mining approvals

The report examines 6 highly controversial QLD resource projects and reveals a pattern of political donations, remarkable access to ministers, unaccountable lobbying, cash for access, and the revolving door between the bureaucracy and industry. All of these projects received extraordinary outcomes including policy changes, project approvals and even legislative changes. 

 The report also highlights the strong connection of these companies to QLD and federal political parties. Most of the political donations examined in the report went to the Liberal Party of Australia, who accepted $1.75 million from companies associated with just 4 highly controversial QLD resource projects. The QLD LNP accepted $1.2 million from resource companies over this period.

While the Palaszczcuk Government has taken the commendable step of committing to real time disclosure of political donations, however this can be easily circumvented by donations being made to federal parties who simply transfer the money back to state branches.

However, the report highlights that little else has changed with the current government. The Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Anthony Lynham met 87 times with the mining and resources industry in 2015, which is 50% more than his predecessor Minister Andrew Cripps during 2013. The government also ignored calls from the current and former Integrity Commissioners and the independent Coaldrake Inquiry to reform the ineffective lobbying register.

One of the projects approved under the former government, the Linc Energy Underground Coal Gasification plant in Queensland’s Darling Downs resulted in widespread contamination over 320 square kilometers of farmland, leading to this type of mining being banned in the state and charges being laid against the company. Linc donated $320,000 to the federal liberal party and QLD LNP and gained remarkable access to Government officials at all levels.

Polling also released today shows the majority of Australian voters believe political donations from fossil fuel companies should be banned.

The results are strongest amongst Greens and Labor, but 46% of Coalition voters believe they should be banned and only 34% allowed. The survey also shows that half of all respondents believe the mining industry has too much influence with only 5% believing they don’t have enough influence. 

“The secrecy and opaque nature of political donations undermines the integrity of processes and creates an enabling environment for poor decision making with the potential for corruption. Political donations should be completely transparent, preferably disclosed in real time and publicly available at all times. Companies should not channel political donations through third parties without fully disclosing all participating donors.” Says Phil Newman, CEO of Transparency International.

“By documenting how Queensland mining companies use money to influence government decision-making in order to advance their commercial interests – at times at odds with the interest of the broader community – the report shines a powerful spotlight on the corrosive role of money in politics,” said Associate Professor Joo Cheong Tham from the Melbourne Law School.

“The poll findings accompanying the report further highlight the gap between prevailing community sentiment in favour of more robust regulation of political money and politicians who insist on business as usual.”

“The case studies in this report could be just the tip of the iceberg”, said The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Hannah Aulby.  “A public inquiry is needed to uncover the full influence of the mining industry on government decision-making. Controls should be strengthened so the community’s interests don’t keep getting buried under political donations from the mining industry.”

“This isn’t just some abstract principle at stake. These projects have very serious impacts on the water, the environment and communities”, Principal Advisor at The Australia Institute, Mark Ogge said.

“Governments are charged with making decisions in the best interest of the community. The systematic weaknesses that enable this kind of undue influence are corroding our democracy.

Table 1. Disclosed political donations from selected mining projects in QLD, 2011-15. Source: Electoral Commission of Queensland, Australian Electoral Commission.

Queensland Liberal National Party

Liberal Party of Australia

Total

Beach Energy

$193,000

$193,000

Sibelco

$93,840

$93,840

Karreman Quarries

$75,000

$75,000

New Hope

$1,300,000

$130,0000

Adani Mining

$14,500

$49,500

$64,000

Linc Energy

$125,000

$213,000

$338,000

Total

$30,8340

$1,755,500

$2,063,840

 Table 2. Fossil Fuel Political Donations by Party, 2011  2015. Source: Electoral Commission of QLD, Australian Electoral Commission.

 Fossil Fuel political donations by party

Between 23 May and 3 June 2016 The Australia Institute conducted a national opinion poll of 1437 people through Research Now, with nationally representative samples by gender, age and state or territory.

Do mining companies have too much, the right amount or not enough influence

 Should fossil fuel companies be banned from making donations to political parties?

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