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Pacific News Minute: Report: Mining Companies Buy Political Influence in Australia

Michael Sonnabend / Flickr
Michael Sonnabend / Flickr

There has been lots of discussion about the influence of corporate money in politics in this year's presidential campaign.   Just two days before Australians went to the polls earlier this summer, an independent think tank published a report on how donations from big mining companies may have influenced six projects, including one of the biggest coal mines in the world.  Details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

An Indian conglomerate called the Adani group donated over $50,000 to state and federal political parties from 2012 to 2015.  In that same period, Adani officials met 19 times with government ministers from the state of Queensland, including seven meetings with the minister for natural resources and mines.  Earlier this year, the state and federal government granted final approval on Adani's Carmichael Mine, which will be Australia's biggest coalmine and, according to conservationists, a threat to The Great Barrier Reef.  Queensland will also spend as much as $220 million on rail and port facilities to ship the coal to India.

The report from the Australia Institute detailed donations from five other mining companies to win green lights on five other projects.  It said legislative changes removed environmental protections, federal and state governments approved projects despite serious environmental concerns and, in one case, approved illegal mining activities retrospectively.  In all, the companies donated nearly $4 million.

The mining companies and the political parties denied that the donations bought access or influence.  One critic called the report biased and pointed to connections between its authors and The Greens Party.  Laws in Australia require that all donations above $10 thousand be disclosed, but not for months afterwards...for example, donations to political parties ahead of this summer's election will not be made public, until next February.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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