It’s an open secret that the fossil fuel lobby has its tentacles embedded in politics. Recent data on political donations provides a glimpse on donations made to political parties by coal, oil and gas interests.
During 2017-18 they donated $1,277,933. This is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. To get around legal restrictions and the political awkwardness of too much transparency, much of the donating is done through lobbyists and other indirect channels and does not go in the record.
It doesn’t take a genius to work pout that nothing will be handed over, unless there is an expectation that something is going to be given back in return.
For the fossil fuel industry this is not hard to see. Adani for example, donated $50,000 to the Federal Liberal Party and One Nation last year. He gets support for building his dirty Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Gallili Basin and the transporting of coal through the Great Barrier Reef.
All together, the industry receives some $12 billion in tax breaks to encourage the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Those in it, often pays no tax at all after raking in billions.
Financial support for political parties goes a long way to explain why the Australian government fails so miserably to live up to its obligations concerning reduction of carbon emissions.
It also exposes a major factor that corrodes democracy. We are told that political power is in the hands of the people through the ballot box. But a political system lubricated by corporate handouts to keep the wheels turning contradicts this.
Fossil fuel companies are up their necks in it. But we should not for a minute assume that they are the only ones. The whole corporate world takes part. So the problem is much bigger.
This particular group of companies stands out, because their actions also harm the environment and potentially harm the prospects of society’s survival, if not threaten extinction.
Action by Australians towards ensuring the breaking of the Australian economy from fossil fuels, must pay attention to breaking the connection between the fossil fuel companies and political parties.
This is what we are up against. To achieve the outcomes needed over the next decade, industry money must be kept out of politics and the companies must be forced to divest out of the industry.
In this way, the battle for the environment in which we depend, is tied to the battle to make the Australian political system a truly democratic one.