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Future mortgaged to the mining past

By Lee Rhiannon - posted Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Last week, Federal Labor voted with the Liberals and Nationals to block a Senate motion calling for a ban on political donations from mining and coal seam gas companies.

It seems that Labor is not prepared to back up Luke Foley's recent comments about a post-coal future by ending its own reliance on mining donations.

Data recently released by the Australian Electoral Commission shows that political donations in the lead up to the 2013 election quadrupled. Mining companies are big donors, contributing hundreds of thousands to the Liberal, National and Labor parties.


Santos, Woodside Energy and Hancock Coal were some of the companies that donated more than $1.1 million to the major parties. The implications for democracy are deeply concerning.

At the same time as these donations were being made mining companies have done very well out of federal government decisions – decisions that Prime Minister Tony Abbott regularly boasts about.

The mining tax has been scrapped saving companies $3.4 billion in taxes. The carbon tax has been scrapped saving companies $6.3 billion in taxes. This is money that should rightfully be paid by companies that profit from Australian resources.

No one knows if governments do deals with companies behind closed doors. We do know that over the same period that the Coalition government is publicly advocating for the mining tax to be scrapped and pushing the change through parliament, political donations from mining companies increased by more than 350 per cent compared to the previous year.

The controversial company, New Hope Coal, which has recently had its Acland mine in Queensland approved, gave a massive $250,000 to the Liberals, in the last financial year, while New Hope's Australian parent company, Washington H Soul Pattison, gave an extra $50,000. In fact, between the two, they have given $750,000 between 2011 and 2013.

Adani, the proponent of the Carmichael mine also in Queensland, has also donated $49,500 to the federal Liberals. This mine has also been approved by the federal Liberal/National government despite the fact that it will remove 12 billion litres of water from a drought-prone farming area and result in approximately 130 million extra tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere very year for 90 years of the mine's life.


Santos, the company fined $52,500 for spilling contaminated water in the Pilliga State Forest, donated $27,500 to the federal Liberals. They hedged their bets a little, giving Labor a total of $33,305. This project is on hold at the moment thanks to broad based opposition uniting farmers, other local residents and their supporters.

Unfortunately, community opposition doesn't always win out against the moneyed interests of coal, as farmers on the Liverpool Plains sadly witnessed last week. The recent approval for China Shenhua to open the Watermark coal mine has deeply disappointed farmers who have been campaigning for years to protect their rich farming land.

This approval closes the deal set up by then NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald, the former minister who is now facing charges of corruption over – that's right, the granting of a mining license.

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About the Author

Lee Rhiannon MLC is a former Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council and is running in the 2010 Federal Election as the NSW Greens Senate candidate.

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