A new analysis from campaign group 350.org has found fossil fuel companies supporting major gas projects in Australia contributed just under $1m in political donations over the last financial year, in what it calls the “dark money” behind government handouts.
The group examined Australian Electoral Commission donations records, finding eight oil and gas companies contributed $959,115 to the Labor, Liberals, and Nationals parties between 2020 and 2021, an increase of $80,000 from the previous year. The majority of this sum went to the Liberal party, which received $506,810. Labor and Nationals followed respectively, receiving $392,354 and $59,991.
As the Greens party refuses donations from fossil fuel companies, it was not included in this list.
In response to the findings, 350 is calling for an end to fossil fuel companies contributing to political parties, to avoid any undue influence on project approval decisions.
“Gas companies are some of Australia’s biggest political donors and are the recipients of massive public subsidies from the government. It’s clear that money is talking,” said 350 senior campaign manager Shani Tager.
“There should be no room for fossil fuel companies in our politics but instead they’re bankrolling the major parties to try and shore up their future…It’s time for all parties to rule out donations from fossil fuel companies so that community voices can be heard, and we can get on with addressing the climate crisis.”
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Woodside Energy, which is forging ahead with its controversial Scarborough gas field, led the charge as the biggest contributor, giving $232,350 to the Liberal and Labor parties. The group’s $16bn liquified natural gas project has been met with consistent opposition from environmental groups, and was brought to the Supreme Court by the Conservation Council of Western Australia at the end of last year over its failure to consider the project’s environmental impacts. The case is ongoing.
Other major fossil fuel firms pursuing gas projects in the country such as Santos and Empire Energy – leading the Narrabri gas project and Beetaloo Basin fracking respectively – also stood out as major contributors. Santos donated $44,000 to the Labor party, while Empire gave $40,000 to the Liberal party and $25,000 to Labor.