As the unprecedented Australian bushfire crisis continues, many Australians are starting to question why, if the government has been made aware of the threat of changing climate, it hasn’t moved to mitigate its escalating effects that droves of scientists assert threaten life on Earth.
Instead, the guy at the helm is the same politician who paraded a lump of coal in parliament in February 2017, stating that we shouldn’t be scared of the impacts of its use. Indeed, our current PM sashayed into the top job as the former one fell in an emissions reduction policy related incident.
However, in order to get some concrete answers on why the Coalition government insists on pushing ahead with the fossil fuel agenda, while great swathes of the public call for climate action, all you have to do is take a look at Greenpeace’s May 2019 documentary Dirty Power.
For its investigation, Greenpeace enlisted veteran journalist Michael West to dig up “Big Coal’s network of influence over the Coalition”. And the doco uncovers links that reveal the globe’s biggest coal companies swaying decisions at the highest levels in Canberra.
Some key players of influence
Early in the documentary, West points to Gina Rinehart as a “prime example”. Besides having had a few former Liberal MPs on her books, Australia’s wealthiest mining mogul has a strong relationship with former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, and has even helped fund his political campaigns.
Rinehart is a co-owner of some major coal mining licence’s in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. So, she’s set to benefit greatly from the opening up of the region for further mining, which will come with the establishment of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and its accompanying rail line.
At the time the piece was released, the Adani mine hadn’t gained full approved as yet. But, the final greenlighting at the federal level had just been given by then environment minister Melissa Price, who’s the ex-vice president of the Mitsubishi Development mining company Crosslands Resources.
Dirty Power also takes aim at vocal coal expansion proponent federal resources minister Matthew Canavan, as the Liberal National MP’s brother just happens to be John Canavan, the former executive of Peabody Energy and part owner of Queensland’s Rolleston coal mine.
In the inner sanctum
The doco then points to links within the prime minister’s own office. Within a week of Morrison taking on the top role, former Minerals Council of Australia deputy CEO and Rio Tinto lobbyist John Kunkel was appointed as the PM’s chief of staff.
Yaron Finkelstein is the ex-CEO of the nation’s most powerful fossil fuel lobby firm Crosby Textor. And these days, he serves as Morrison’s principal private secretary, while the former director of the same firm Andrew Hirst is now the federal director of the Australian Liberal Party.
And then there’s the influence of pro-fossil fuel, climate change denying News Corp. Former Courier Mail editor Matthew Fynes-Clinton is now Morrison’s speech writer and ex-chief of staff at the Daily Telegraph Andrew Carswell is the PM’s press secretary.
Fossil fuels are us
Towards the end of the documentary, West stresses that one link isn’t significant, and neither are a number of them, but “when you identify, as this investigation has done, a raft of links… you can see that this network must have a powerful influence over government” and its policies.
So, with the fossil fuel industry having infiltrated top level government so pervasively, it seems clear why increasing numbers of grassroots Australians are beginning to come to the conclusion that in order to move off the destructive path we’re on there needs to be substantial system change.
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.