Michael Pascoe: Shocking news – business lobbyists don’t tell the truth

Here’s an absolutely shocking discovery by a veteran journalist: When dealing with business lobbyists, one must start with the assumption that they are not telling the truth.

That’s why it is dumb to dumbly repeat whatever such lobbyists might be claiming, whether the lobby is Big Carbon or ClubsNSW.

Sometimes what such lobbyists say will coincide with the truth, but that tends to be coincidental. Truth-telling itself is not their aim in any situation involving billions of dollars in profits for the industries the lobbyists represent, millions of dollars in executive bonuses for the industry executives who hire the lobbyists and very fat and juicy fees for the lobbyists themselves.

The same goes for multi-national company representatives. There’s a clue in that wording – they represent multinational companies first, foremost and always.


A better word for them is supra-national – Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Woodside et al are above any nationality, existing where it suits them for the benefit of their share prices and the multi-million dollar salaries those share prices provide for their occupants of the C-suite.

The screams of threatened disaster for Australia if the Albanese government goes ahead with its mild tempering of the massive windfall profits – profits on a scale never contemplated by the companies when they decided to invest in our gas – are the executive bonuses talking, not reality.

The politicians echoing the lobbyists’ talking points – whether Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton for Big Carbon or NSW State Opposition Leader Chris Minns for poker machines  – are useful for those making the very big bucks.

The interchangeability of lobbyists and politicians and politicians’ staff –  most obviously in the resources and defence industries – facilitates the easy flow of self-serving claims.

Media that chose to fall into line with such industries, headlining the hyperbolic threats without challenge or perspective, do their readers and the country no service.

Spare me any anonymous gas executive claiming Labor’s efforts to limit his Putin bonus “amounts to a nationalisation of the industry”.

And as for the stock brokers and investment bankers who make their own bonuses as friends of the industry, their primary interest is not that of the nation that actually owns the resources they’re hyperventilating over.

Scare campaigns

The supra-nationals roll out their PR and scare campaigns, bending reality or simply ignoring it. They have all the credibility of multi-billion tax avoiders – which the ATO has shown they are.

As for threats of a capital strike and alleging Australia is entering the realm of sovereign risk, oh please. Pull the other one – it plays jingle bells.

Australia has been and remains a very attractive, very stable country for natural resources investors. Missing out on some of the Russian-provided supra-profits won’t change that.

Like actually paying the tax they should, once the dust settles, business resumes.

Big Carbon’s main problem isn’t the Federal Government making good on its warnings about price gouging, but knowing it is on borrowed time.

Last month the Reserve Bank governor highlighted resources industry investment not reflecting the surge in commodity prices.

There are exceptions – lithium, most obviously – but Big Carbon’s horizon in shrinking and it knows it, even while it tries to greenwash gas and Australian coal.

The gas projects here that already have had large investments will continue to progress. They take years and were never based on war prices.

Projects beyond that next crop are a different matter – the risk of creating stranded assets as the world decarbonises dominates board rooms, not Canberra’s effort to reasonably take a direct stick to the current inflation problem instead of leaving it to the Reserve Bank to recess the economy.

Chevron, Woodside, Shell, Santos and Origin want to stamp their feet and take their bat and ball elsewhere? Where, pray tell?

The world beyond Australia is a much riskier place on any number of counts.

WA shows the way

It may come as a shock to the anonymous executives and their lobbyists that the Commonwealth no longer does exactly what they wish.

The odd investment banker looking at cheaper share prices might be dismayed. Do they think anyone cares?

Beyond the PR campaign, Australia has the real time example of Western Australian reserving gas for domestic use. No drama. No capital strike.

That’s the thing about markets – they adjust and get on with business after the odd hissy fit.

Australia’s resources riches are too good to miss out on. They know it – just don’t expect them to tell the truth.

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