Integrity concerns with Empire Energy grants

In July 2021, the Morrison Government handed $21 million to oil and gas company Empire Energy to frack for gas in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin. 

In late 2020, Energy Minister Angus Taylor visited Empire Energy’s fracking site in the Northern Territory. He wasn’t the Minister responsible for the issue so we decided to take a closer look at his connections to the company. 

What we uncovered

Our investigations uncovered extensive lobbying of the Morrison Government by Empire Energy. Documents we obtained under Freedom of Information showed Empire Energy coordinating a Ministerial visit to their fracking site around a liberal party fundraising event in Darwin and requesting early information about the details of the grants program. When the Government said there was “no correspondence” between Empire Energy and either Minister Pitt or Minister Taylor, we had the documents that showed those discussions had happened. 

We continued digging into this issue, compiling donations to the liberal party made by Empire Energy Chair Paul Espie and trawling through documents provided to the Senate and highlighted that the head of a liberal party fundraising body attended Empire’s site visit, alongside Minister Taylor. 

The links between the Morrison Government and Empire Energy were covered in the Guardian as was the inclusion of a Liberal Party fundraiser on Empire Energy’s site visit.

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