Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Too many climate change think tanks

By Ben Beattie - posted Friday, 9 September 2022

In public discourse there are those promoting the truth, and those looking to further their own agenda. This is most obvious when the topic is climate change - where feelings and ideology are weaponised to not only win the argument, but to scorch the earth of opposing views.

Into this battle swaggers the Australia Institute, a Canberra thinktank staffed by Greens-affiliated activists and commentators. Their climate change rhetoric is infused with anti-human de-growth dogma - a study in green-left ideology dedicated to choking Australia's economy and future opportunities, part of a wider agenda to constrain fossil fuel production.

Throw enough mud and it sticks, and TAI's partisan analysis of climate change and energy leaches into the public debate like a toxic sludge. TAI is often quoted by The Guardian Australia, and then regurgitated online in blogs such as Renew Economy, Crikey, The Saturday Paper and The Conversation. One could be forgiven for thinking TAI is an extension of the Greens political party; their anti-fossil fuel headlines touted by the likes of Zali Steggall on social media.


In March 2022, TAI released "Fossil fuel subsidies in Australia" asserting that the fossil fuel industry was provided $11.6 billion in subsidies in 2021-22. The exaggerated claims were widely repeated including online by

In direct contradiction, the Productivity Commission calculated that 2020-21 assistance to the entire mining industry, not just the fossil fuel industry, was just $476 million. TAI grossly overstates the amount of subsidy from governments to fossil fuel industries by listing the $8 billion diesel fuel rebate which is neither a subsidy, nor is it specific to the fossil fuel industry.

The report also claims $200 million of equity in Kurri Kurri Power Station used to firm wind and solar, and $900 million in federal tax concessions for aviation fuel. At a state level, the report incorrectly lists government investments in profit-making state-owned power stations, mines, ports and railways as fossil fuel subsidies.

In May 2022, TAI penned "APPEA members who pay no income tax", which argues for higher taxes on resource companies. The author, widely quoted by The Australianand other news sources, wants us to believe that gas companies get a free ride, based on selectively edited tax data, and without considering costs and deductions.

The report cherry picks just five gas companies, but APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association) represents over sixty full-member companies, making no attempt to convey the huge expenses incurred in developing resources, such as the $100 billion construction cost of Queensland's three LNG projects. An honest review of the ATO tax data would have revealed that other APPEA member gas companies paid a combined total of $5.4 billion in taxes in the same period, with an additional $7.8 billion in Petroleum Resource Rent Tax.

Furthermore, the report incorrectly used modelling figures from 2012, suggesting that $85 billion would be collected by government from eight LNG trains. The industry ended up with six trains, and a much smaller estimate of $58 billion in government income over the twenty-five year life of the projects.


In the August 2022 op-ed "It's time to tax mining and energy giants properly", TAI executive director Richard Denniss argues for higher taxes on Australian gas companies, citing the $137 billion total revenue of the Norwegian oil and gas sector as an example of a 'good resources tax system'.

This is a flawed perspective as the Norwegian government sells oil and gas itself, in addition to collecting fees and taxes from private sector petroleum companies. Australian governments derive income from fees, taxes and royalties, but do not extract and sell oil and gas. As Australian taxpayers do not provide the massive capital required to develop natural resources, and do not sell these resources directly, Denniss' comparison is completely invalid.

Further muddying the waters, Denniss has not attempted to separate oil production from natural gas production. These commodities have different markets, different benchmark pricing, and furthermore Australia does not produce significant amounts of oil. How much of Norway's petroleum income is from oil, and how much from gas? As the saying goes, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

A version of this article was first published in The Spectator.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

9 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Ben Beattie is an electrical engineer in the gas and power sector.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 9 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy