Dirty Coal and the Lobbyists

The coal industry has infiltrated Australia’s federal government through a secretive network of ties, working to influence Australia’s political decisions at the highest level: right up to the office of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison


Why is this so horrifying? 

Coal is the number one cause of climate damage. It causes more frequent and intense natural disasters like bushfires while also polluting our water and air. 

By pandering to the interests of the coal industry, the Coalition Government is putting dirty profits ahead of the health and wellbeing of Australians who want our nation to run on clean energy.

From furthering the fossil-fuelled agenda of current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to helping to bring about the swift downfall of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: the coal industry has infiltrated the Australian Government at the highest level.

Why is this so horrifying? 

Look at the major polluters and discover they are the top 40 tax dodgers whop pay no company tax or if they did pay any company it was an obscene tokenism 

Top 40 Tax Dodgers

RankingCompany Total IncomeTaxable IncomeMarginTax PayableTax Rate
1GLENCORE INVESTMENT PTY LIMITED$27,929,635,183$108,107,9930.39%00.00%
2EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA PTY LTD$24,810,160,19000.00%00.00%
3ENERGY AUSTRALIA HOLDINGS LIMITED$23,901,332,940$51,800,0990.22%00.00%
4MITSUBISHI DEVELOPMENT PTY LTD$14,169,387,36100.00%00.00%
5VIRGIN AUSTRALIA HOLDINGS LIMITED$13,318,353,00000.00%00.00%
6VODAFONE HUTCHISON AUSTRALIA PTY LTD$11,831,941,03200.00%00.00%
7SANTOS LIMITED$11,222,883,109$27,340,9380.24%$3,147,97511.51%
8GENERAL MOTORS AUSTRALIA LIMITED$10,357,307,07000.00%00.00%
9BHCA PTY LIMITED$9,914,941,527$37,131,3980.37%00.00%
10GRAINCORP LIMITED$9,728,771,192$29,941,8330.31%$4,652,94515.54%
11BNP PARIBAS$9,319,136,94500.00%00.00%
12POMI PTY LIMITED$9,230,497,423$1,323,8470.01%$397,15430.00%
13FLETCHER BUILDING (AUSTRALIA) PTY LTD$8,730,475,619$35,968,5430.41%$5,703,07315.86%
14PEABODY AUSTRALIA HOLDCO PTY LTD$8,678,625,13200.00%00.00%
15BROADSPECTRUM LIMITED$8,616,335,336$16,065,8030.19%00.00%
16CHEVRON AUSTRALIA HOLDINGS PTY LTD$8,262,405,59000.00%00.00%
17FORD MOTOR COMPANY OF AUSTRALIA LTD$8,262,405,59000.00%00.00%
18CITIC RESOURCES AUSTRALIA PTY LTD$7,876,392,11400.00%00.00%
19SABMILLER AUSTRALIA PTY LTD$7,726,971,39200.00%00.00%
20PUMA ENERGY (AUSTRALIA) HOLDINGS PTY LTD$7,323,761,85800.00%00.00%
21NISSAN MOTOR CO (AUSTRALIA) PTY LTD$7,255,251,607$22,471,2320.31%$476.000.00%
22SPOTLESS GROUP HOLDINGS LIMITED$7,231,123,102$12,613,5370.17%00.00%
23AMCOR LIMITED$7,055,763,985$17,362,1930.25%00.00%
24ERM POWER LIMITED$6,945,455,014$27,148,3180.39%$7,782,31328.67%
25BG INTERNATIONAL (AUS) PTY LIMITED$6,770,646,72700.00%00.00%
26HEALTHSCOPE LTD$6,651,396,744$11,652,5000.18%00.00%
27AGRIUM SP HOLDINGS PTY LIMITED$6,533,277,462$13,138,0920.20%00.00%
28FOOD INVESTMENTS PTY LTD$6,412,825,690$16,750,0450.26%00.00%
29ING BANK NV (SYDNEY BRANCH)$6,275,430,862$15,641,2770.25%$4,692,33130%
30MITSUBISHI MOTORS AUSTRALIA$6,195,436,833$1,912,5290.03%00.00%
31FOXTEL CABLE TELEVISION PTY LIMITED$6,006,084,50300.00%00.00%
32HYDROX HOLDINGS LIMITED$5,722,736,90500.00%00.00%
33UGL LIMITED$5,640,219,90900.00%00.00%
34NEW ZEALAND MILK (AUSTRALASIA) PTY LTD$5,623,430,259$2,598,7100.05%00.00%
35MIRVAC LIMITED$5,486,283,493$19,687,3390.36%00.00%
36TRAVELEX AUSTRALIA HOLDINGS PTY LTD$5,335,790,513$12,106,5430.23%$3,429,91228.33%
37VENNOR INVESTMENTS PTY LTD$5,204,621,53900.00%00.00%
38CSR LIMITED$5,190,938,10600.00%00.00%
39SWISS RE AUSTRALIA LIMITED$5,188,023,218$3,052,2470.06%00.00%


Why is it so? 

The Clean Energy Regulator has named Australia’s 10 highest carbon emitters, with coal-fired generators taking out the majority of positions.
Most of the world is turning its back on burning coal to produce electricity, but not Japan. The nation has fired up at least eight new coal power plants in the past 2 years and has plans for an additional 36 over the next decade—the biggest planned coal power expansion in any developed nation (not including China and India). And last month, the government took a key step toward locking in a national energy plan that would have coal provide 26% of Japan’s electricity in 2030 and abandons a previous goal of slashing coal’s share to 10%.
The reversal is partly a result of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which punctured public support for atomic energy. Critics say it also reflects the government’s failure to encourage investment in renewable energy.
The coal revival, they say, has alarming implications for air pollution and Japan’s ability to meet its pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which account for 4% of the world’s total. If all the planned coal plants are built, it will “be difficult for us to meet our emissions reduction goals,” Minister of the Environment Masaharu Nakagawa noted earlier this year.

Not long ago, coal was on its way out in Japan. In 2010, coal plants accounted for 25% of Japan’s electricity, but the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) planned to reduce that share by more than half over 20 years.

The ministry counted on nuclear power to pick up the slack, with its share of the nation’s electricity set to increase from 29% in 2010 to 50% by 2030.

The environment ministry projects that if all the planned plants are built, by 2030 coal’s carbon emissions would more than offset the cuts Japan wants to make elsewhere. A yet-to-be-published Greenpeace study concludes that if the plants operate for 40 years, they would also emit pollutants that would cause more than 60,000 premature deaths.

Public opposition and projections of declining electricity demand have some utilities rethinking plans for new plants. The Electric Power Development Company of Tokyo announced last week that it is abandoning plans for two new 600-megawatt coal plants near Kobe. In all, companies have now canceled six planned coal plants announced since 2012, according to the environmental group Kiko Network in Kyoto..

The coal industry is powerful and has infiltrated Australian government at the highest levels, all the way to the office of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s senior staff is dominated by former executives and employees of the coal industry, its lobbyists, and pro-coal mastheads at News Corp. They include:

  • Scott Morrison’s Principal Private Secretary, Yaron Finkelstein, was the former CEO of Crosby Textor (now C|T).
  • Morrison’s chief of staff, John Kunkel, was previously Deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) and a lobbyist for Rio Tinto.

News Corp staffers dominate Morrison’s communications team, including his speech-writer, Matthew Fynes-Clinton (formerly with The Courier Mail);

  • his press secretary, Andrew Carswell (formerly chief of staff at The Daily Telegraph); a
  • and advisor Thomas Adolph (formerly with The Australian).
  • Stephanie Wawn, a senior Morrison advisor, previously worked for Capital Hill Advisory, whose clients have included coal miner Glencore, as well as the pro-coal think tank the Menzies Research Centre.
  • Former staff of the coal industry and its peak representative body, the Minerals Council of Australia, are employed across the federal Coalition government. Prominent examples include:
    • John Kunkel, Scott Morrison’s chief of staff, was Deputy CEO of the MCA and a lobbyist for Rio Tinto.
    • Sid Marris, former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s Senior Adviser for Energy, Climate Change, Resources and Northern Australia, previously worked for the MCA as head of environment and climate policy.
  • Patrick Gibbons worked as an advisor to Greg Hunt during his tenure as environment minister.
  • When Sid Marris left the MCA to work for Malcolm Turnbull, Gibbons took up Marris’ former role at the MCA.

The Clean Energy Regulator has named Australia’s 10 highest carbon emitters, with coal-fired generators taking out the majority of positions.

The CER says nearly half of all of Australia’s direct emissions, 49.7 per cent, came from just 10 companies and their assets.

The data also shows Queensland is the nation’s top emitting state.

Based on the CER’s annual breakdown here are Australia’s largest emitters.

1.AGL – 43.4 million tonnes
AGL remains Australia’s largest emitter, with an output more than twice as high as the next largest emitter. This is mainly driven by the fact it owns the Bayswater, Liddell and Loy Yang A coal-fired power stations, as well as a raft of smaller gas-fired power stations. Its plan to shut down the Liddell power station in 2022 will cut around 14 million tonnes from AGL’s emissions bottom line, although it won’t see the company relinquish its top position.
2.Energy Australia – 21.7 million tonnes
EnergyAustralia owns the large brown coal-fired Yallourn power station in Victoria and the Mt Piper black coal-fired power station in NSW, which is also trialling a garbage burning power generation system.
It recently acquired two new gas-fired power stations in Victoria, the Jeeraland and Newport power stations, and also operates the Tallawarra gas power station.
3.Stanwell Corp – 18.6 million tonnes
Stanwell Corp runs the Stanwell and Tarong coal-fired power station, accounting for nearly half of all of Queensland’s coal-fired generating capacity.
4.Origin Energy – 17.2 million tonnes
Origin’s largest single emitter is its Eraring coal-fired power station, the largest single coal power station in the country.
Its plan to close Eraring in the early 2030s will slash its CO2 output in half, taking it immediately out of the top 10. It also has a large number of gas-fired power stations as well as coal seam gas production and exporting operations in Queensland.
5.CS Energy – 14.1 million tonnes
Queensland’s state-owned generator operates three major coal-fired power stations, Kogan Creek, Gladstone, and the Callide B and C power stations.
It also owns the Kogan Creek coal mine. Excess energy generated from the Gladstone power station also provides power to the Boyne aluminium smelter.
6.Engie (trading as International Power (Australia) Holdings) – 11.4 million tonnes
While Engie, formerly known a GDF Suez, makes the top ten for the last financial year, it won’t be making another appearance in the 2017/18 list, after it rapidly shut down and handed off all of its coal-fired generator assets, the Hazelwood and Loy Yang B brown coal-fired power stations in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
7.OzGen Holdings – 10.3 million tonnes
OZGen, which is partially owned by Chinese firm Huaneng Group, owns InterGen Energy, which runs the Millmerran power station and co-owns the Callide C power station with CS Energy in Queensland.
8.Woodside Petroleum – 10.2 million tonnes
Woodside is one of Australia’s largest oil and gas companies, operating offshore oil rigs off the coast of Western Australia.
It operates the North West Shelf and Pluto LNG projects.
9.Loy Yang Holdings P/L – 10.1 million tonnes
Loy Yang Holdings was a subsidiary of Engie, formerly GDF Suez, and comprised two operations, the Loy Yang B power station and the Kwinana cogeneration plant, located around 40 kilometres south of Perth, WA.
10.Glencore – 9.7 million tonnes
Glencore is Australia’s largest coal miner, and also has hard rock mines such as zinc, copper and nickel, as well as farming operations, making it the only agricultural operator make the top ten.
State-wise, Queensland was Australia’s highest CO2 emitter, accounting for 27.4 per cent of all emissions nationally. This was driven by the fact the state has a number of coal-fired power plant as well as mining, oil and gas, and smelting operations.
NSW, which was combined with the ACT, followed closely behind at 26.3 per cent, thanks to its cluster of large coal-fired power stations across Lake Macquarie and the Hunter Valley as well as smelting operations.

Dirty Coal


This report is based on interviews with dozens of political operatives, current and former staffers, executives of external lobby firms, and resources sector analysts; previously hidden details about the identity and background of federal ministers’ parliamentary staff; and publicly available information about listed companies and their operatives.

We worked with experienced investigative journalist, Michael West, to expose the web of ties between the coal industry and federal government via industry groups, lobbyists and media.

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