Publish What You Pay to take case to new government

Source: The Sustainability Report
Date: 20 Sep 2021

Publish What You Pay Australia will press its case to the new federal government for the adoption of mandatory disclosure standards for companies in the mining and extractive industry.

This week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott named the ministers who will comprise the new government. Joe Hockey has been named treasurer, with Mathias Cormann named finance minister, Arthur Sinodinos the new assistant treasurer responsible for superannuation and Steven Ciobo named parliamentary secretary to the treasurer. Prime Minister Abbott, leader of the conservative Liberal party, has disbanded the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, with those portfolios now attributed to the Department of Industry, headed by Ian Macfarlane.

“We will be continuing our campaign along the same lines that we were with the Labor government, with focus on international developments,” said Claire Spoors, coordinator, Publish What You Pay Australia. “Obviously, the US and Europe have introduced the kinds of legislation we wish to see in Australia when it comes to payment disclosure, and Canada has announced that they will bring in payments disclosure.”

Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted in favour of a new Transparency and Accounting Directive. The amendments to the Transparency and Accounting Directive will make it a requirement for European-Union listed and large privately owned oil, gas, mining and logging companies to publish country by country and project by project payments over €100,000 to governments wherever they operate. This brings the EU in line with the US Dodd-Frank Act section 1504, which demands similar disclosures.

Also, Canada has announced that it will establish new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian extractive companies and Switzerland said it was also considering the possibility of similar legislation. The United Kingdom and France have also committed to implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

“Canada’s announced that they will bring it in, and Canada has a conservative government,” Spoors noted. “The UK also has a conservative government. These are points we will make to the new government to pressure Australia to act and be a leader by encouraging the emerging markets in the G20 to also do it.”

Publish What You Pay Australia will also engage the Australian government on the issue in the run up to Australia taking over the presidency of the G20 in 2014. The organisation had met with the Liberal coalition when they were still in opposition, and Spoors is confident they will meet with the government as well.

In addition to lobbying government, Publish What You Pay Australia will work with stakeholders in the investment community to push the agenda of payments disclosure on a country-by-country basis.

“We will be encouraging our investor allies to speak up for this type of disclosure,” Spoors said. “Also, we will also be encouraging companies that are cross-listed to advocate for this in Australia. We are speaking out for the need to have Australia bring in mandatory disclosure.”

Civil society groups, investors and investor groups such as the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors are pressing for mandatory disclosure of payments mining and extractive companies make to governments in which they operate because it increases transparency around governance and social responsibility.

Australia’s EITI pilot started in July 2012 and the AU$500,000 cost was funded by the then-Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. The pilot has been overseen by a multi-party stakeholder group of federal and state government representatives, industry and non-government organisations, and a report on the pilot is expected to be tabled at the end of this year or early next year.

The Australian government has introduced legislation amending taxation law that will permit the disclosure of how much large listed companies pay to the Australian government in taxes.

By Rachel Alembakis

The Sustainability Report