As we enter 2020, Australia has no national climate change policy. There are no mechanisms to reach our vastly inadequate commitments under the Paris Agreement1.
Meanwhile, our nation suffers through unprecedented drought and bushfires, and we face yet another brutally hot summer of heatwaves and coral bleaching2. Yet as public concern about the climate crisis reaches record levels, our Government’s refusal to act only becomes more entrenched.
Why is there bipartisan support for action on climate change in nations like Germany, France and the UK, while we are so far behind?
The answer is the massive power of coal and gas lobby groups in Australia.
In particular, the power of the Minerals Council of Australia, which has recently been named one of the top 10 climate policy wreckers in the world3. The Minerals Council does everything it can to support big coal companies at the expense of action on climate change.
The Minerals Council has always been a powerful force in Australian politics. However, it was the $22 million advertising campaign against the Rudd government’s proposed Resource Super Profits Tax (the “mining tax”) that entrenched the Minerals Council as the most powerful lobby group in Australia4. As the Sydney Morning Herald stated: ‘How much does it cost to bring down a prime minister? The answer: a tad over $22 million.”
This campaign did two things. It scared the hell out of anyone thinking of doing anything the Minerals Council would oppose, such as putting a price on carbon pollution. It also emboldened the climate deniers in Parliament who the Minerals Council have been shepherding for years.
We saw this manifest itself in the campaign against Australia’s only substantial legislation on emissions – the Clean Energy policy introduced by the Gillard government in 2011. Under this policy, our emissions reduced and reached an all time low. The Minerals Council campaigned strongly against the Clean Energy package5. The election of the Abbott government in 2013 killed that legislation off, and ever since, our emissions have risen.
The Minerals Council continues to flex its muscle on climate policy. For example, they pushed hard to make the Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee as weak as possible, arguing for unlimited carbon offsets and the removal of state renewable energy targets6.
Why are these campaigns so successful?
Part of the reason is that the coal lobby spends big on advertising and political donations. The coal lobby ads are the biggest third-party political expenditure in Australia – according to recent data7, “advertisements spruiking the benefits of coal and mining were the biggest political expenditure by third-party groups in Australia last year.”
Perhaps an even bigger source of power for the Minerals Council is the infiltration of Minerals Council ex staffers in our politicians’ offices8. Perhaps the most powerful person in Australian politics apart from the Prime Minister is his chief-of-staff, John Kunkle, who was formerly the second in charge at the Minerals Council. Former Liberal Minister, Helen Coonan, is now the Chair of the MCA. And former CEO of the MCA, Brendan Pearson, is a senior adviser to the Prime Minister.
This is the reason that even as support for action on climate change amongst the public skyrockets, our Government refuses to introduce an ambitious climate policy. And this is more than just a barrier to climate action – it’s also undermining our democracy.
That’s why we’re taking them on. The Minerals Council has huge power over our politics, but we know that in our democracy, it’s the people who our politicians must serve – not polluters. We have a plan to ensure that we can end their wrecking-ball role, and get the big polluters out of our politics, and it will take a massive people-powered campaign to pull this off.
Sign the petition to get involved in the campaign today to undermine the power of the Minerals Council and get on with the job of creating a better world for all.
Here are the current members of the Minerals Council of Australia:
|Full members of the MCA||Associate members of the MCA|
Anglo American Metallurgical Coal
BHP Boss Resources
Centennial Coal Company
Dart Mining NL
Deep Yellow Ltd
Donald Mineral Sands (Astron Ltd)
Downer EDI Mining
Energy Resources of Australia
Glencore Australia Holdings
Idemitsu Australia Resources
Lithium Developments Ltd
Kirkland Lake Gold
New Hope Corporation
Peabody Energy Australia
Providence Gold & Minerals
The Bloomfield Group
Thiess Pty Ltd
Vista Gold Australia
Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia
ECOZ Environmental Services
Ernst & Young
Herbert Smith Freehills
NSW Minerals Council
Quadrant Energy Australia
Queensland Resources Council
South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy
Sparke Helmore Lawyers
Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council
True North Strategic Communication