In case there was any doubt about the ties that bind Australia’s top coal lobbyists with the federal Coalition government, former Minerals Council of Australia CEO Brendan Pearson has been tapped as a senior adviser to Scott Morrison.
The appointment, revealed in The Australian on Wednesday, shifts Pearson up in the Coalition pecking order from the office of the minister for finance, Mathias Cormann, to Morrison’s inner sanctum.
It also reunites the Prime Minister with the likely source of the infamous lacquered lump of coal he brandished in Parliament back in 2017, when Pearson still headed up the Minerals Council.
Pearson will also be back working side by side with his former MCA deputy chief executive, John Kunkel, who currently occupies the key position of Scott Morrison’s chief of staff.
The revolving door between conservative politics and the fossil fuel lobby is nothing new in Australia – as Michael Mazengarb reported here last month, it has long sat uncomfortably for many working in the energy space.
The MCA has shared advisors with former environment minister Greg Hunt and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. But it appears to be getting increasingly unashamed since Scott Morrison’s ascension to the top of the LNP.
And it coincides with a renewed push from the party’s right wing and the conservative media for more so-called “baseload” energy generation sources in Australia – mostly coal, but also nuclear.
What’s next? Perhaps we can look forward to Morrison bringing a lacquered lump of uranium ore into Question Time in the near future. “Don’t be scared,” he could say, as he did with the lump of coal.
But it is scary. The Minerals Council has serious form in promoting new coal plants, and public subsidies to help build them. So much so that major member companies like BHP have been compelled to concede – although not yet take action – that there are “material differences” over climate and energy policies between them and the MCA.
Fellow Australia mining giant Rio Tinto in April threatened to walk away from the Minerals Council over these differences, pending a change to the company’s protocol that demands alignment with its position on climate change and carbon emissions from any group offered material funding by Rio.