BHP suspends membership of Queensland Resources Council over ‘vote Greens last’ campaign

Australia’s largest miner, BHP, has suspended its membership of the Queensland Resources Council over state election advertisements urging people to “vote the Greens last”.

In a statement, BHP said it objected to advertising that “specifically targets the overall standing of one political party” and had formally asked for the QRC ads to be withdrawn.

“BHP has [on Tuesday] given notice to the QRC that it will suspend its membership of the association, effective immediately,” the statement said.

“BHP supports communications campaigns focused on policy issues of interest to the resources industry and the people who work in it and rely on it.

“The QRC has, over many years, made important contributions to such policy debates, however the current campaign is not consistent with that contribution. BHP has been left with no choice but to suspend its membership with immediate effect.”

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Guardian Australia understands that several other companies, including the large diversified miner South32, have also contacted the QRC to make clear they oppose the anti-Greens advertising.

A South32 spokesman said: “As with any potential misalignment between South32 and our industry associations, we have engaged with the QRC to formally raise our concerns.

“We value the work that the QRC does to support the Queensland resource industry and the broader community, however we do not support campaigns directed at individuals or political parties,” a spokesperson said.

The Queensland election is expected to be tight in a state where minor parties already wield significant influence. Key contests in greater Brisbane and in regional Queensland are expected to be decided by preference flows from minor parties. The Greens expect to win at least two seats in inner Brisbane.

The dynamic has created additional scrutiny around preference deals, and potential alliances with minor parties should the election result in a hung parliament. This week the Liberal National party has announced it will put Labor last in all 93 electorates.

Some of the state’s regional lobby groups – including from the farming and mining sectors – have voiced concern that the LNP preference decision could result in additional Greens being elected to parliament.

The QRC advertising, which has been running on social media since Sunday, specifically targets the Greens.

In a statement on Tuesday, QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane, the former federal LNP MP, said the industry lobby would “continue to warn Queenslanders about the risk to jobs of voting for or preferencing the Greens right up until 6pm on election night.”

“The Greens have made it clear they are against new mining projects and want to put an end to the existing mining and gas industry, terminate existing mining leases in the Galilee basin and increase royalty taxes on resources, which will stop future jobs being created,” Macfarlane said.

He welcomed a pledge by the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, not to negotiate with minor parties in the event of a hung parliament.

BHP – which has copper, iron ore, nickel and coal interests in Australia – has previously considered quitting industry lobby groups, including the Minerals Council of Australia, over climate concerns.

The QRC’s aggressive pro-coal lobbying, in support of expanding the sector and opening the Galilee basin, has led to some internal unease among diversified and non-coal miners, who are concerned the approach contributes to a negative public perception of other parts of the mining sector. The QRC has done its own private research which bears this out.

In December, BHP decided to remain a member of industry lobby groups despite publicly disagreeing about the need to put a price on carbon emissions.

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The Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which has pushed climate action resolutions at the shareholder meetings of mining companies, has called on gas giants Santos and Origin Energy to also walk away from the QRC.

Daniel Gocher, the director of climate and environment at the ACCR, said the NSW Minerals Council had distributed anti-Greens material at last year’s state election.

“We welcome this move and encourage BHP to look at its other lobbying associations which have been placing a handbrake on climate action in Australia – notably the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association,” he said

“The QRC was noted as an insidious blocker to climate action in a recent report from InfluenceMap.

“Origin Energy and Santos should heed BHP’s warning, and similarly dump their memberships before shareholders demand it of them.”

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