Pauline Hanson v the gas giants: who would have thought?

by | Feb 23, 2022 | Energy & Environment

When people think of the Queensland senator, the words ”policy visionary” don’t jump to mind. But her One Nation party is promoting a better policy on our gas resources than its rivals in Federal Parliament. Time for Australians to take off the earplugs. Callum Foote reports.

Who would have thought Pauline Hanson had a more sensible policy on the gas sector than the Coalition and Labor? After all, the One Nation leader proudly derides climate action.

Federal politics often has strange divisions and alliances. When it comes to the issue of gas lobbyists’ control over federal politics, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation may be as angry as you are.

Throughout 2021, Hanson decried the use of donations and memberships to political parties made by oil and gas companies. Yes, corporations can be a member of a political party so long as they pay the premium.

When debating the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Bill last August, Hanson said that “when you have a company like Woodside paying $55,000 a year to have access to the National Party ministers in the resources portfolio, which they always hold, that tells me something is not right.”

Investigations have shown that in 2020 oil and gas giant Woodside was a platinum member of both Labor and the Liberals, paying each party $110,000 for access to their politicians.

Woodside has since downgraded to gold membership ($55,000) in both major parties. 

Other fossil fuel companies which are members/donors of the major parties include:

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Speaking to a bill that proposed $2.3 billion to ensure foreign-controlled oil refineries continued to operate for Australia, Hanson said that after oil and gas companies extract oil from Australian waters and export it, “we’re forced to buy it back from foreign markets, where the oil companies have extracted the bulk of the jobs and profits that should belong to Australians.

“Successive governments have squandered the opportunity to negotiate better deals for Australians off the back of these highly sought-after resources.”

A 2020 ACCC report revealed domestic gas users can pay up to twice the amount to import gas than Australian based exporters sell it for overseas.

Hanson went so far as to propose a government-owned enterprise instead of paying private companies to do the same job. “If we’re going to pay $2.3 billion to secure Australia’s fuel supply, the government should buy the Brisbane refinery in Lytton and let it become an asset owned by the Commonwealth.”

Hanson continually references Norway’s Sovereign Health Fund having  “struck the right chord for its citizens, earning $1.5 trillion from its commodities.”

“Australia, on the other hand, last year took a measly $300 million in direct payments for $50 billion worth of gas off the North West Shelf” while “the tiny nation of Qatar has a different approach. It receives around $26 billion in royalties on the gas it exports.”

Qatar trades slightly less gas and hydrocarbon products than Australia.

Support from independent experts

The Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank, supports Hanson’s proposal. Her plan would amend the Offshore Petroleum Bill to include a national interest test for new gas policy.

“We supported Senator Hanson’s proposal because it aligned with our research – Australians do not get a fair return from the gas industry,” says Rod Campbell, Research Director at The Australia Institute.

“The proposal could lead to some kind of national interest test for policy decisions around the gas industry.

“Such a test could examine problems like minimal tax revenue, increasing emissions and mounting decommissioning liabilities.  

“But a national interest test will only contribute to better outcomes if it is conducted transparently and independently.

“It it gets outsourced to the gas industry’s usual gang of consultants and economic modellers, nothing will change.”

Campbell concludes, “Any gas project needs to have a thorough assessment of the public interest before it is considered.”

Setting her sights

Hanson’s office told Michael West Media that the senator had “highlighted Woodside particularly. Since 2012, Woodside has given well over a million dollars to the Coalition and has benefited considerably from the arrangement from the Northern Endeavour.

”Our biggest issue in energy and mining is with foreign-owned multinationals operating in Australia.

”Making sure that foreign-owned multinationals operating in Australia pay their fair share of tax will be a major One Nation policy going into the federal election.

”What we want to move to is a transactional-based tax system where the Australian people are getting a fair return for allowing these foreign-owned multinationals the privilege to extract Australian resources.

The question is: how much confidence can the Australian people have that the major parties are working in tier interest in regards to the energy and resource sector and tax systems when they are taking so much money from these companies?”

Hanson sums up the impact these companies have on Australia: “These are our resources. We will never get them back again. We are not making the money out of it that we should …

The major parties] are not making multinationals pay their fair amount of tax in this country and yet they are forcing the Australian people to pay higher prices for our gas than what we export it at… It is about time they wake up to themselves in this place and look after the Australian people and our resources because they belong to the people, and charge accordingly.”

This is all from a politician who believes in a “climate change ideology” which “is based on little more than computer models which have, time and time again, never panned out in reality” and “has empowered other countries to demonise Australia, threaten its economy and threaten its very sovereignty” and supports the building of new coal-fired power stations.

So, if you want action against major gas companies controlling Australian politicians, a red-hot climate denier may still be worth some attention.

Callum Foote is a journalist and Revolving Doors editor for Michael West Media. He has studied the impact of undue corporate influence over Australian policy decisions and the impact this has on popular interests.

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