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Government's Beetaloo grants gift public money to party donor

Media Release
Larissa Waters 7 Jul 2021

The Greens say today’s awarding of $21 million of public money to a private corporation to frack the Northern Territory will turbocharge climate collapse, threatens groundwater and goes against the wishes of Traditional Owners.

The money, taken from the $50 million Beetaloo Basin slush fund created by the Coalition and supported by Labor, will be given to Imperial Oil and Gas to drill three new gas wells.

Imperial Oil and Gas is 100% owned by Empire Energy, a company chaired by Paul Espie, who is chair of the Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Centre think tank and has personally donated $400,000 to the Liberals and Nationals over the past two decades.

Greens deputy leader and spokesperson on resources Senator Larissa Waters said:

“This is as transparent a case of public money being handed out to party donors as you’ll ever see.

“This government is giving $21 million to a multi-billion dollar company whose multi-millionaire chairman is a Liberal Party mate and massive donor to the Libs and Nats. It doesn’t get any more shameless than that.

“The Beetaloo Basin project is a climate disaster waiting to happen. If it goes ahead it could increase Australia’s carbon emissions by as much as 23 per cent. Only a few weeks ago the G7 said governments should be phasing out taxpayer support of fossil fuel projects by 2025 as part of efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“The government has also ignored the wishes of Traditional Owners, who have actively petitioned for the project to be stopped. During a NAIDOC Week calling to Heal Country, this government just keeps giving First Nations communities the middle finger.

“The Greens got Senate support for an inquiry into the $50 million Beetaloo program and when Parliament resumes, the Senate will have the opportunity to disallow the slush fund. It’s clear we shouldn’t be spending public funds on fossil fuel projects when we know that we have less than a decade to prevent climate catastrophe. It’s madness, and we’ll be urging Labor and the cross bench to reject the government’s plans.

“Health, education, increasing JobSeeker - there are so many ways this money could be better spent. Handing public money to party donors for a climate-wrecking project that no one wants is unethical, wasteful and a danger to our children’s future.”

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