Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Matters of Urgency

Sport: Fossil Fuel Sponsorship

4:57 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The President has also received the following letter, dated 23 November 2022, from Senator McKim:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today the Australian Greens propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

"The need for the Senate to support the banning of fossil fuel sponsorship in sport, recognising the leadership shown recently by prominent athletes speaking out against fossil fuel companies sponsoring sport organisations".

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I'll ask the clerks to set the clocks accordingly.

4:58 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The need for the Senate to support the banning of fossil fuel sponsorship in sport, recognising the leadership shown recently by prominent athletes speaking out against fossil fuel companies sponsoring sport organisations.

This country loves sport. Our athletes are our children's role models. For First Nations communities, sport has played a role in our gatherings and celebrations since before colonisation, bringing people together and strengthening our culture.

Recently, we have been seeing more and more athletes, fans and community leaders taking action for climate justice. This shows the next generation what good leadership looks like, in caring for our country and our communities. Climate change is making our country sick, and fossil fuel companies are continuing to destroy our lands, our waters and our skies, fuelling climate change and killing us.

Fossil fuels are the new tobacco. When we realised that tobacco had serious consequences to our health, we decided that the companies responsible for these harms had no place in sponsoring the sports teams and athletes we love. Now, as this country suffers devastating floods and fires, our athletes and everyday people are taking a stand to say that these dirty polluters have lost their social licence and have no place in sponsoring our beloved sports teams and players. In an attempt to regain this social licence, these dirty companies are pumping millions of dollars into sponsoring some of our biggest sports teams and events, giving an estimated $14 million a year to national sporting teams, not to mention the millions in donations they give to both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party every year to keep this destructive industry alive.

Recent polling shows that a majority of Australians believe that fossil fuel sponsorship is the new cigarette sponsorship, and that fossil fuel companies should be banned from sponsoring national sports teams. This research shows that fossil fuel companies have lost their social licence to sportswash our national teams and major events. Given that gas, coal and oil companies are accelerating the harmful impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, it's unsurprising that Australians and our athletes want these companies out of sport.

As the only party in this place that does not accept donations from the polluting companies that are destroying our country and the globe, the Greens welcome and support the leadership shown by our deadly Noongar sister netballer Donnell Wallam, Noongar ex-AFL player Daniel Kickert, and Australian test captain Pat Cummins in taking a stand against racist mining companies and fighting for climate justice. In voicing their objections to fossil fuel companies sponsoring their teams, these athletes are using their influence for positive change. That should be commended. The Greens want fossil fuel companies to be banned from all forms of advertising and sponsorships, including sponsoring any sporting team, organisation or event. If the government chooses to ignore the leadership of these athletes, whilst they get selfies with them and stand on podiums, which is quite hypocritical, they will be showing where their allegiances really lie: not with our athletes and not with our communities, but with their mates in the fossil fuel industry who no longer have permission to continue destroying our country and polluting the planet.

5:03 pm

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

Opponents of conventional energy companies and their involvement in sports sponsorship are determined to cut Australia's zinc-covered nose off despite its face. Australia has always been a world leader in sport, but it now appears we want to lead the world in hypocrisy. Many professional sporting teams are coming under pressure to cut all ties with energy resources companies. But if they were really serious, that would mean no more flying to games, no more diesel-fuelled team buses, no more night games unless the stadium lights run on a completely renewable energy, which may prove difficult to date on a dark windless night. The same with air-conditioning in the rooms and coaches boxes. Boots and sneakers are out, and mouthguards, plastic drink bottles, goalposts, playing apparel, clubs, bats, balls and supporters' gear too. And fans will have to stand, because plastic grandstand seating is also out. Did anyone tell them these products were all made from minerals or petroleum resources? Professional sport would not exist without the by-products of key mineral and energy commodities like coal, oil and gas.

I'm looking forward to seeing if this government is going to reject this radical position, or whether it will say somehow that we're too good for the over $40 billion worth of royalties and company taxes paid by resources companies, and that we don't want to accept their money. Are we also too good for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who accept salaries and wages from resource companies? Are we too good for them as well? Recently Hancock Prospecting, Woodside and Alinta Energy came under attack for the crime of daring to help our athletes play sport for a living, earn millions of dollars and bask in the adoration of fans.

The truth is that much of professional and community sport is made possible because of Australian resources. For instance, Hancock Prospecting ploughs money into minor sports that don't get the big sponsors, such as rowing, volleyball and synchronised swimming. Community sporting bodies represent mums and dads who take kids to sporting fields, ovals and stadiums right across the country every weekend and during the week, so it's people like Mrs Rinehart and our great resources companies who are putting their hands in their pockets and allowing these things to happen.

Sadly, some sports stars, the Greens, most of the Labor Party, the teals and green Independents don't seem to realise that traditional dispatchable energy from conventional sources is pivotal to our ability to live first-class lifestyles. They also ignore the fact that almost all the big energy companies have publicly and firmly committed to reducing their own emissions. They employ the most environmental scientists and do the most environmental studies, outside of the public sector. They sponsor programs for underprivileged and Indigenous youth that don't garner the big headlines, and many of these programs are in regional areas, where young people don't have access to the best coaching, the best facilities and the decent equipment available in the cities.

Under these circumstances it's hard enough for a country kid to crack the big time, but now we're being told that we have to put another obstacle in their way. Criticism of energy company sponsorship ignores the fact that regional sports clubs run on shoestring budgets, chook raffles and sponsorships from resource companies and the local businesses that supply these companies. What virtue-signalling, inner-city professional athletes call sportswashing is actually direct community benefit to struggling regional towns. Resources companies support regional communities with infrastructure such as pools, housing, libraries and sports facilities.

The world is transitioning to renewable energy, but we can't just snap our fingers and end the use of coal, oil and gas. The demonisation of energy companies is truly astonishing because without them we wouldn't have lights, heating, computers, mobile phones and myriad other First World conveniences. People can have views, but the views being expressed currently are extreme and ignore the fact of energy requirements in this country now and into the future.

5:08 pm

Fatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sport has the ability to bring communities together, to share a common purpose and to teach us all important life lessons. Our incredible Australian sporting heroes have a role to play in moving society forward. Players need to be heard on important matters and need to have avenues to voice their support for or dissatisfaction with any issues they have in the workplace. We need to make sure players are being listened to regarding issues in their sport, including sponsorship. The emerging issue of players speaking on their sport's choice of sponsor reflects broader conversations that Australians are having around the country on social, environmental and cultural issues.

This is, however, a matter for the individual sports and their governing bodies. What's important is our sporting environments should have modern Australian workplaces where athletes are entitled to collective bargaining and the ability to fight for wages and conditions. The Albanese Labor government's investment in sport is about getting more Australians involved in sport, bringing communities together, boosting the economy and supporting our elite athletes to pursue success on the global stage. We recognise the importance of sport being safe, fair and inclusive for all so that every Australian can feel the rush only sport can bring you.

Last month I had the honour of participating in a panel discussion run by the Bachar Houli Foundation's Girls Leadership program. We focused on the experience of Muslim women in leadership roles, the ups and downs they experienced and the importance of getting involved in community sport. The best part was hearing from young women, from all different backgrounds and all ages, about how much they love playing sport. It was remarkable and inspiring to see their resilience in the face of obstacles and their enthusiasm to be the change that they want to see in the world. They recounted how participating in sport helped improve their physical and mental health, develop their self-confidence, establish their place in society and build leadership skills. I'm not much of an athlete myself, but I do know how important sport is to the communities we represent and how it brings people together and improves people's confidence and their engagement in the community.

This is an important period for Australian sports. We bring together Australia's sport community and celebrate the upcoming green-and-gold runway of major sporting events in the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We have an incredible opportunity to unite, inspire and build Australia through sport. It will provide us with wonderful opportunities to boost and inspire more community participation right across the nation.

Regarding the urgency motion moved by Senator McKim, these matters are for the sports clubs and their governing bodies, but I stress again that it is important for us to remember that our sporting environments are still workplaces. Our incredible Australian athletes, like any other worker, should have a say in their workplace environment and conditions.

5:11 pm

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

As has been pointed out, Australians love their sport. Climate change is threatening our way of life in Australia and it is affecting sport. This is happening now. Sport is already feeling the effects of climate change. I think it's really important to remember that in the context of this debate on this urgency motion. We are seeing sporting clubs not being able to insure against bushfire or flood damage and we are seeing pitches being too hard to play on during droughts. This is having an effect already.

We hear the arguments for fossil fuel sponsorship in sport. You do need sponsors in sport. That's clear. Professional sports and community sports often rely on it. But fossil fuel companies represent only 3.5 per cent of sport and business partnerships, so this is not an insurmountable challenge. Clearly a lot of sports are working on this.

It's curious that many of these fossil fuel companies do not sell a product to consumers, so clearly this is about social licence. The concern of athletes is that they are being used to extend the social licence of an industry when many of those companies have no plans of winding down and transitioning. That's the concern. We're not saying turn off the tap on fossil fuels today; we're saying that we need to be part of a transition, and many of these companies who sponsor sport don't have a plan.

I'm out of time, but I do want to point out that this is the first time the Greens have mentioned fossil fuel sponsorship of sport. There is not adequate time to debate something like this before putting it to a vote in the Senate. This warrants much more debate. I am disappointed that we're going to hear a minute or two from senators and then we will vote on this. (Time expired)

5:14 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The reserves of hypocrisy within the Australian Greens party know no bounds. As I often comment, if only we could capture their hypocrisy and convert it into electricity. It would be the ultimate source of renewable power. It is infinite in its supply. Here we have an urgency motion from the Greens saying that they don't want any money from fossil fuels to fund sports in Australia.

At every election that I've known in my time in this place, the Greens policy platform—which can't even be calculated on modern computers, according to the former Treasury secretary Ken Henry—has been funded by extra taxes on fossil fuels. The only way that they can pay for their political promises is from the funds of the coal and gas industries. If there weren't coal mines and gas fields in Australia, the Greens would have massive, massive black holes for their crazy plans for high-speed rail all around the country and for health care for everybody, no matter the cost—which we can't afford. Some of the plans that the Greens have are good things—I'd love to give health care to everybody—but all of them, in the Greens policy platform, are funded by fossil fuels.

We have a motion here today in which the Greens are trying to deny this funding to other people—to Australian sports that struggle. A lot of sporting codes in Australia struggle to make ends meet. The high-profile ones do alright, but netball has been struggling. The Greens are trying to deny sports access to funding from fossil fuels but not themselves. If it weren't for fossil fuels—if we were serious about this motion—how would we fund our hospitals? Because most of that is coming from our coal and gas industries. We just had a budget that was handed down where a $50 billion increase: not the total amount, but a $50 billion increase came from higher coal and gas prices. We fund our public services in this country thanks to these large export industries. Coal is our biggest export; gas is our third-biggest export. The two together are 40 per cent of our nation's commodity exports. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be able to fund ourselves. Certainly the Greens wouldn't be able to fund themselves without fossil fuels.

5:16 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Digging up and burning fossil fuels is destroying our climate and our environment. A recent report from Swinburne University is the first to quantify the number and value of coal, gas and oil sponsorships in Australian sport. It's not a small number. They spend $14 million to $18 million each year sponsoring 24 high-profile leagues and sports in Australia. Santos, Alinta, BHP and Woodside are all major sponsors. So why do they do it? Because, as the climate crisis intensifies, more and more people are aware that it is greedy, morally bankrupt fossil fuel companies that are fuelling this crisis. More people than ever can see the connection between the greed of fossil fuel corporations and the disastrous climate emergencies we see here and around the world. These fossil fuel corporations know that their social licence is fast evaporating, so they are scrambling to greenwash their environmental reputations by throwing money at high-profile, much-loved sporting leagues and teams.

I came here from Pakistan, passionate about netball, cricket and soccer, and that passion has only grown while I've been here. Fossil fuel companies know that people here love sport. They know that when sports embrace their sponsorship and when athletes wear their names and their logos, it helps to normalise their existence and sanitise their reputation because of the community's love for sport. It is a tactic that's straight out of the playbook of other big, cashed-up, unscrupulous industries, such as the tobacco and gambling industries. Years of sponsorship of sporting teams, arts festivals and other community events position companies as good corporate citizens and locks in dependence on corporate goodwill. We must not accept that. We must not allow dirty, polluting fossil fuel companies to use sport to try and prolong their sorry existence while killing the planet.

Just as we know fossil fuel sponsorship of sport needs to be banned, fossil fuel sponsorship of politicians also needs to be banned. Both Labor and the coalition are on a unity ticket when it comes to accepting dirty donations from fossil fuel companies. As a result, this place is crawling with fossil fuel lobbyists, and, sadly, big events in this place, like the Midwinter Ball, are sponsored by fossil fuel companies. It's no wonder that neither major party will call for an end to coal and gas, despite the overwhelming evidence that this is what we must do as a matter of climate science and as a matter of global justice.

It takes courage to take a stand against powerful fossil fuel corporations. The major parties don't have that courage, but athletes, activists and sovereign owners do. I want to pay tribute to the brave athletes, especially in netball, cricket and the AFL, who are speaking up and refusing fossil fuel sponsorships. In particular I stand in solidarity with Diamonds player and Noongar woman Donnell Wallam for her immense courage, and say kudos to her team for backing her. They are speaking out about their values. They are reflecting the values of their communities and their fans. This is the type of courage that gives me hope for the future.

5:19 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian netball team rejected an offer of sponsorship from Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting because they refused to wear their logo. Who is this company our netballers rejected? Hancock Prospecting grew into one of Australia's largest companies on the strength of their Roy Hill iron ore mine. Iron ore is still their largest product—Hancock mines coal as well. Since the Greens seem to be ignorant of metallurgy, let me educate you lot: the only way to make steel is using coal to heat iron ore. The Greens talk about green steel as an alternative—it's not. Green steel is so brittle it's unusable. There's no realistic chance of green steel ever being used to replace coal-fired steel. Green steel does have a role as a photo opportunity to sustain the green steel lie designed to destroy the coal and steel industries for whatever visible reason the Greens advocate.

Australian netballers rejected steel. Senator McKim's motion is rejecting steel. I hope that all those who feel as Senator McKim does go home tonight and rip out their steel stoves, turn off their steel fridges, throw away their steel microwaves, their cutlery, their knives, their saucepans—you get the idea. How will Senator McKim and his steel haters get home? Not in a car or even an electric vehicle. Those are made from steel and other products made with coal and hydrocarbon fuels. These other products include aluminium, glass, fibreglass and plastic. They can't travel in a train, bus, cycle or scooter—more steel, more oil. Walking home is, of course, an option—just avoid steel-capped work boots or any boots made with steel tools. The hypocrisy in this motion is breathtaking!

Hancock Prospecting enjoys strong relations with the local Aboriginal communities, who benefited over the last seven years from mining royalties totalling $300 million. We have one flag, we are one community, we are one nation—coal-powered and steel-built thanks to miners.

Hon. Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When the chamber shows some respect, I will call the next senator. Up until the last speaker, there was respect shown to other speakers, and I ask and remind senators to listen in silence. Senator Cox, you have the call.

5:22 pm

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Advertisements intend to build positive attitudes, emotion and connection with products and with companies. Corporations seek out sponsorship opportunities as part of their marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, fossil fuel companies are no different. As the Australian Greens spokesperson on resources, a proud Western Australian and a long-suffering Fremantle Dockers fan, it pains me how these worlds actually collide. Woodside Energy's merger with BHP's oil and gas assets makes it one of the 10 biggest independent energy production companies in the world. Its 9.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions make it the ninth highest emitter in Australia for 2021.

The Fremantle Dockers have had a very long relationship with Woodside Energy. In fact, Woodside Energy has been the major sponsor of the Dockers since 2010. They signed on to support the Dockers AFLW team in 2017. This sponsorship deal was renewed last year in October and is worth approximately $2 million. I am not the only purple-scarf wearer who doesn't want Woodside's climate-wrecking hands all over my footy team. Former Dockers player and my cousin Dale Kickett stood with former manager Gerard McNeill alongside former Premier Carmen Lawrence, award-winning author Tim Winton, Nobel Prize winner and climate scientist Bill Hare, and former climate change adviser to Woodside Alex Hillman at a press conference last month to call for an end to Woodside's sponsorship of our beloved club.

Fossil fuels have absolutely no place in sport while this climate is in crisis. I echo the high-profile Australians who do not want the Dockers' good name to be used by a corporation to enhance its reputation when its massive profit-making activities are threatening our environment, our health and our cultural heritage. Players, members and supporters are speaking out because that's what they actually care about—they care about the planet. They don't want athletes branded with fossil fuel logos, granting social license to operate in our communities. State capture is in fact real. Both of my colleagues, Senator Thorpe and Senator Faruqi, have outlined this. When Rio Tinto actually blew up the Juukan caves, they lost their sponsorship deal with the AFL; this shows that it's not about commercial risk and it's not about the money.

There are other notable athletes that have spoken out about the injustices in sports sponsorship, and they have also been named by my colleagues. The Australian test and one-day international captain, Pat Cummings, recently urged Cricket Australia to look for other, ethical sponsors. Proud Noongar woman and sister Donnell Wallam challenged Netball Australia about their multimillion dollar contract with Hancock Prospecting because of racism—not because of the history of the company and what they think they've done for black people in this country, but because of the racism that exists and that is history. She won and she made a spectacular debut days later, and I thank them for their leadership. I ask those in this place to follow their lead.

We can't continue to tackle the climate crisis if we are opening up new coal and gas projects, and there are currently 114 of those new coal and gas projects in the investment pipeline. If fossil fuel companies won't back off and put our health, the health of our children and the health of our environment before their profits, their power and their influence, then we as the parliament need to intervene in the same way as we did with big tobacco—stopping them from plastering their toxic brands everywhere they please.

We are out of time. The CSIRO State of the climate 2022report released today tells us that Australia's climate has warmed by an average of 1.47 degrees since the national records began. The Paris Agreement requires us to keep that temperature below 1.5 degrees, and we are already heading to the point of no return. If you don't believe in doing everything that it takes to secure a future for our children on this planet, then you don't deserve a seat in this place.

Opening up new coal and gas projects will blow the emissions reduction target that Labor have already agreed to legislate in this place. In particular, opening up Woodside's Scarborough project alone will blow these targets. We need a moratorium on new coal and gas, and we need to ban fossil fuel sponsorships for sporting teams, organisations and events. It's time to stop the greenwashing of fossil fuel companies who are misleading the Australian public about their climate credentials.

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Thorpe at the request of Senator McKim be agreed to.