Brendan Pearson, ex-CEO of the Mineral Council of Australia (MCA), was appointed to the position of
- Senior Advisor for International Trade and Investment for the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) 2019 to present.
Pearson has been attempting to influence Australian energy policy, mostly from outside the government, for over a decade. However, the LNP’s third term has seen Morrison stack his office with lifelong pro-coal lobbyists who now, after so many years of banging on the door, are able to formulate policy directly.
Pearson’s previous association with multinational mining firm Peabody Energy and his longstanding, yet ill-fated, career with the Mineral Council of Australia (MCA) cause alarm for those hoping for unbiased prime ministerial advice.
Pearson began his pro-coal jouney as the Deputy CEO of the MCA for four years between 2007-12 before transferring to Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the US. At Peabody, Pearson was the Vice President of Government Relations, a position which had him labelled as the “chief lobbyist” in Australia for the multinational.
In 2014, Pearson accepted the role of CEO of the MCA. As a veteran of the Australian mining industry over the last decade, Pearson took part in the successful campaigns which toppled Rudd’s Resource Super Profit Tax and Gillard’s Carbon Tax along with their prime ministerships.
During Pearson’s tenure as CEO, the MCA launched a campaign to develop new coal-fired power stations throughout Australia seeking support through government subsidies despite widespread resistance to the plan.
This drew the attention of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) who, in 2016, engaged in talks with BHP Billiton regarding the unsustainability of the MCA’s practices.
BHP then stated that it intended to review its membership with the MCA if the organisation continued to pursue activities which were inconsistent with BHP’s Paris Agreement commitments and public opposition to government subsidies for coal.
Under pressure from BHP, the MCA could no longer support Pearson’s radically pro-coal stance. Fearing the loss of the multinational’s support the MCA and Pearson parted ways in 2017.
Other Coal Connections in the Office of the Prime Minister
Australia has entered a period where the dividing line between government and business has eroded significantly and trust in the political system is at an all-time low. When the office of the prime minister is so staffed by pro-coal lobbyists to that it functions as a consultancy firm for the industry, we know that regulations of government oversight are inadequate.
Coal Connections within the Office of the Prime Minister
- John Kunkel, Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, former Deputy CEO of MCA
- Yaron Finkelstein, Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary, former CEO of Crosby Textor
- Andrew Hirst Liberal Party campaign director, Crosby Textor alumni
- Isaac Levido, Deputy Liberal Party campaign director, Crosby Textor alumni
- James McGrath, LNP Senator for Queensland, Crosby Textor Alumni
- Stephanie Wawn, Senior Advisor to Morrison, former manager for CapitalHill Advisory
- Matthew Fynes-Clinton Speech-Writer, former deputy chief of staff and editor of The Courier Mail
- Andrew Carswell, Press Secretary, formerly chief of staff at The Daily Telegraph
- Thomas Adolph, Advisor, formerly with The Australian
For more information regarding the #RevolvingDoors between the mining industry and government please see the Dirty Power report below:
This article stems from the #RevolvingDoors series which documents the undue influence some interest groups have over the government as a result of the relational network that exists between business and government.