If ever you needed to know where Tony Abbott’s loyalties are, you only need to read the following article by Graham Readfern.
Lynton Crosby’s lobby firm linked to Australian fossil fuels
Crosby Textor co-founder Mark Textor helps Australian Opposition leader Tony Abbott to shape his messages
UK prime minister David Cameron’s key political strategist Lynton Crosby now finds himself in the place where few lobbyists really want to be – in the public eye.
Earlier this month, the government announced it was going to dump plans to sell cigarettes in plain packaging.
Lynton Crosby’s international lobbying firm, Australia-founded Crosby Textor, lists tobacco as being among the industries it represents. The Guardian reports that one of those clients is cigarette giant Philip Morris.
Labour Party shadow health minister Andy Burnham claims Crosby chaired a strategy meeting with tobacco bosses to discuss ways to block the plain packaging plans.
Labour leader Ed Milliband told Prime Minister Cameron the revelations represented a “devastating conflict of interest”. Cameron disagrees and says Crosby has never lobbied him about tobacco and advises him on strategy, not policy.
You might be wondering why this is all relevant for a blog on environment issues in Australia.
But Crosby Textor is just one example of a lobbying company with influences in the highest offices that also work for clients with a direct interest in environmental regulation and policy, climate change and campaigns to shape public perceptions.
Lynton Crosby, an Australian, has a long history of working directly for conservative leaders. He is known among some British conservative political strategists as the “Wizard of Oz”.
His company profile lists campaigns for former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. There have been two campaigns for London Mayor Boris Johnson – the first won Johnson his mayoral robes and the second kept them on his back.
Crosby Textor also says it works with the mining industry, oil and gas, retailers and renewable energy companies. Its website declares it has run “700 research projects, 250 campaigns, in 57 countries.”
The other founder of the Crosby Textor empire is Mark Textor and his company profile says:
Mark’s direct clients have included governments, premiers and opposition leaders in six countries and the CEOs and Boards of major Australian and multi-national companies in a broad range of industries, including; mining, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceutical, retail, financial services, banking (“Big Four”), tobacco, renewable energies, oil, gas and farming sectors.
Just as Lynton Crosby is part of Prime Minister Cameron’s inner circle, Textor is a key figure in the office of the Australian conservative Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott.
Mark Textor is Tony Abbott’s “pollster” and a recent profile for Australia’s Power Index acknowledged his skill with the focus group.
He’s a genius at transforming raw research into compelling communication – someone who presses people’s emotional buttons, identifies points of division, and boils complex issues down to their core.
A story from the Australian Financial Review, republished on the Crosby Textor website, is headlined “Who’s in Tony Abbott’s inner circle”.
Abbott also has the services of … pollster Mark Textor. Textor’s role can’t be overstated – based, as it is, on relentless qualitative analysis of polling trends.
While writing this blog, I came across Mark Textor as he took to Twitter to defend his business partner Lynton Crosby in the wake of the tobacco lobbying controversy.
Textor Tweeted quotes from an article by UK Daily Telegraph blogger, anti-wind farm activist and climate science denier James Delingpole.
…BBC – or its print equivalents.. They’re so in thrall to the leftist lobby groups, so instinctively against business, that it simply wouldn’t occur to them (BBC / UK print equivalents) to ask whether less regulation might sometimes be a good thing.
I asked Textor on Twitter which companies were on the Crosby Textor books right now. He said it was none of my business (a few other things were said too, archived here).
I also asked if he had been behind a recent controversial statement from Tony Abbott, where the Opposition Leader described emissions trading schemes as “a market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one.” Textor didn’t respond.
Yet it is possible to know a little about some of Crosby Textor’s paying clients in Australia, by looking at the registers of lobbyists maintained by state governments.
APPEA is the peak industry group for the oil and gas industry and among other things, speaks on behalf of Australia’s booming coal seam gas industry.
Crosby Textor also carries out research for industry groups such as the Queensland Resources Council – the peak body for mining in the state.
Crosby Textor also lists on the lobby registers other clients including Research In Motion (the makers of BlackBerry), property developers, a plastics company, a recycling firm, a business making biofuels and a charity that aims to better protect cyclists.
Leaving Crosby Textor aside, I’ve argued before on ABC’s The Drum that Australia’s lobby registers are in fact opaque.
These registers do not detail which individuals lobby for which company, who they have met, how much they are paid or what pieces of legislation they are working on.
The lobby registers and the offices of major resources and energy companies, and industry groups representing them, are riddled with the names of former politicians from both sides of the spectrum. High-ranking civil servants are also popular recruits into lobbying posts.
In at least one state (Queensland) new rules have been introduced where lobbyists do have to enter details about who they have met, but this information is not openly published.
Neither do the registers account for the activities of in-house lobbyists – people who lobby for the interests of the company that employs them.
If companies in Australia decide they want to influence the public by sending money to a think-tank, then the public knows even less.
Think tanks in Australia don’t have to disclose their funders or provide details in financial statements, even though some are actively trying to influence policy decisions and public opinion.
In the climate change space, the issue of lobbying and the lack of transparency has frustrated leading climate scientist James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. I’ll leave you with his words.
Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage.
Oh, and don’t forget this picture…