Fossil Fuel Watch Weekly Digest 30 May-5 June

It was a big week for Nev Power, fronting up to the Senate Committee, and the coal lobby's demands were laid bare.

It was a big week for Nev Power, fronting up to the Senate Committee, and the coal lobby’s demands were laid bare. 350 Australia is tracking the fossil fuel lobby and its attempts to use the Covid-19 health crisis to its advantage.

Updates for 30 May – 5 June:

  • Nev Power, Chair of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (the Covid Commission) appeared before the Senate Committee into Covid-19 on Thursday. Media reports are here, here, here and here. Key revelations include:
    • Mr Power was unable to guarantee that no members of the Covid Commission would stand to personally benefit from any recommendations they made to Government;
    • Mr Power stated he would not step back from any discussions regarding gas, despite his significant shareholdings and company directorship in a gas company;
    • Mr Power stated the Manufacturing Working Group, whose interim report was leaked in May, has presented its final report to the Covid Commission and relevant Ministers;
    • Only the Chair of the Manufacturing Working Group, Andrew Liveris, is required to declare any potential conflicts of interest, not other members of the Working Group;
    • The Covid Commission now has a budget of $5.5 million, not $3 million as was previously provided. 
  • The Senate Select Committee received answers to questions on notice one week after they were due. Answers released yesterday confirmed that whilst declarations of interests by members of the Covid Commission had been presented to PM&C, the declarations would not be made public. The advice from PM&C stated “Each Commission member has provided an undertaking to not use any information that they gain in the course of their official duties as a member of the Commission for personal gain.” The Guardian has covered this issue here
  • The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) collated the company tax paid by all known subsidiaries of the Mineral Council of Australia’s ten largest member companies over five years between 2013/14 and 2017/18. Of the 33 subsidiaries assessed, the aggregated marginal tax rate was just 18.8% over five years. Fifteen of them paid little or no tax in 2017/18. The perennial tax avoiders include Glencore, Peabody Energy, Whitehaven Coal and Yancoal.
  • The Queensland Government handed the coal industry a major victory this week by cementing rail and port monopolies for at least another decade, helping to shield the industry from cost ­increases. The rail lines transport coal from nearly 50 mines in central Queensland to five export terminals.
  • The Minerals Council of Australia quietly released a 19 page document ‘Immediate reform priorities to accelerate economic recovery’ outlining a wishlist of policy asks they have presented to the Morrison Government. The document is dated May 15, 2020, and includes policy changes such as:
    • Reduce the company tax rate, and introduce accelerated depreciation;
    • Implement IR reforms to enable greenfield agreements to extend to the life of mining projects;
    • Allow for Carbon Capture and Storage to be funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Similarly, expand the remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency so it can support hydrogen production from coal and gas;
    • Establish a temporary federal program that would provide grants to companies to offset exploration program costs;
    • Consider the recommendations of a 2019 Standing Committee on Environment and Energy Inquiry, which included “Australian Government consider the prospect of nuclear energy technology as part of its future energy mix.”
    • Develop a technology-neutral energy policy embracing renewables, hydrogen, coal and gas with carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear technologies; and 
    • Integrate Commonwealth and state/territory environmental assessment and approval processes

Contact for further background and media comment: 

Lucy Manne

CEO, 350 Australia 

0417 387 516

[email protected]