The Minerals Council of Australia has admitted it makes donations to political parties to gain access to politicians, an unusually candid statement from a donor about the influence of money in politics.
The mining lobby group’s submission to a Senate committee examining the role of donations in Australia’s political system contrasts with the explanations given by other lobby groups and businesses, which said their donations were intended to support democratic processes.
“The MCA makes the political contributions detailed above because they provide additional opportunities for the MCA to meet with members of parliament,”the Minerals Council said.
“The MCA uses these opportunities to update members of Parliament about conditions in the Australian minerals industry and the policy priorities of the MCA.”
Treasurer Scott Morrison with a lump of coal during question time at Parliament House last year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
In its submission, the organisation said it donated more than $90,000 to political parties over 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The Senate inquiry was established by Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers and is looking at ways to improve the integrity of the political system.
The chair of the committee, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, said the Minerals Council had “admitted what we’ve known all along” by saying it was paying for access.
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“Our democracy is broken when a major mining lobby group feels comfortable publicly saying they pay for access to the old parties without fear of any consequences,” Senator Di Natale said.
The Minerals Council, which played a critical role in high-profile campaigns against the former Labor government’s mining and carbon taxes, has recently clashed with its largest member company,BHP, over the lobby group’s advocacy for coal.
Chief executive Brendan Pearson, an advocate for new coal-fired power stations, stepped down in September after BHP said it was reviewing its membership.
Former Minerals Council chief executive Brendan Pearson. Photo: Paul Jeffers
In Crown Resorts’s submission to the committee, the gambling giant said the cost of campaigning meant “political parties in Australia rely heavily on donations in order to communicate their messages and policies” to the public.
“Crown makes donations to registered political parties to support the democratic and electoral process in Australia,” the company said in its the submission.
“Crown does not expect the monetary contributions made to registered political parties to have any outcomes for shareholders.”
ANZ Banking Group said it had a role to play in “supporting democracy” by making donations.
“Our donations are aimed at promoting the development of social and economic policies to benefit Australia,” the bank said.
The Insurance Council of Australia, which represents insurance companies, said it donated to help parties mount campaigns and support a “stable political environment”.