Money intended for research was diverted to coal advertising
Pre-election coal advertising funded by money meant for clean coal research, ABC News, By Stephen Long 21 Feb 17 The coal industry’s multi-million-dollar advertising and lobbying campaign in the run-up to the last federal election was bankrolled by money deducted from state mining royalty payments and meant to fund research into “clean coal”.
- Coal21 fund launched in 2004, aiming to create $1 billion to research “clean coal technologies”
- Fund’s coal levy was suspended from mid-2012 to mid-2016
- In 2013 coal lobby changed mandate of Coal21 to allow its funds to be used for “coal promotion”
The mining industry spent $2.5 million pushing the case for lower-emissions, coal-fired power plants in the run-up to last year’s election — a cause the Federal Government has since taken up with gusto.
The source of the funds was a voluntary levy on coal companies, originally intended to fund research into “clean coal” technologies, which coal producers could deduct from state mining royalties.
Instead, some of the money raised paid for phone polling, literature and TV ads that declared “coal — it’s an amazing thing”.
The funds were channelled through the Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technology Limited (ACALET), formerly owned by the Australian Coal Association and now part of the Minerals Council for Australia.
Queensland Government documents list “the COAL21 levy payable to Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technologies Ltd (ACALET)” as an eligible deduction against royalty payments in the state.
A “coal research” levy in NSW is also deductible against coal mining royalty payments, under a deal signed off by the disgraced former NSW Labor minister Ian Macdonald, who was charged with criminal offences after an ICAC inquiry.
Coal21 was launched more than a decade ago, with the aim of creating a $1 billion fund for research into “clean coal” technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), but only a fraction of the money was raised or spent.
With a lack of research projects to finance, the levy was suspended in 2012. In 2013, the coal lobby changed the mandate of Coal21 to downplay research and allow its funds to be used for “coal promotion”.
Critics ‘outraged’ by industry’s use of funding
Funding the industry campaign from money that otherwise would have been paid to state governments as mining royalties has outraged the Federal Opposition and the coal industry’s critics.
“It is a huge shame that Coal21 funding, which was mean to go into genuine CCS research, is now being used to finance advertising and political campaigns,” Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler said.
Australia Institute chief economist Richard Denniss said it was “scandalous”.
“Every dollar spent on advertising as part of the coal industry campaign was a dollar that should have gone into consolidated revenue,” he said.
“Citizens funded a propaganda campaign with money that would otherwise have gone into public revenue to fund schools and hospitals.”
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