Oxfam wants election commitment for mandatory legislation over resource company payments disclosure as Australia signs up to voluntary scheme
Australia is the latest country to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international program to tackle corruption involving mining companies and governments.
The EITI is an international standard, administered out of Norway, that sets criteria for transparency within the oil, gas and mining sectors and the international governments they deal with.
Member countries and companies disclose information on payments such as those that cover taxes, licenses, contracts, royalties and production costs.
This is really important for citizens in mining countries
Chris Madden, mining advocate, Oxfam Australia
The EITI is one way the sector has developed to deal with a phenomenon known as the “resources curse”, the paradox whereby countries with abundant natural resources are often poorer than countries without them.
Federal Minister for Resources Josh Frydenberg said Australia had already committed more than $20 million in funding to the EITI since 2007.
He said becoming a member country strengthens Australia’s credibility in advocating for greater adoption by other countries.
“We already have a great level of transparency in Australia, but globally not every jurisdiction does,” he said.
“For Australian companies operating abroad, the fact that more information will be provided about tax arrangements, about permit costs and other payments around the production of resources in particular jurisdictions, is good news for Australia and good news for the global sector.”
Oxfam wants transparency requirements legislated
Many international non-government organisations have been advocating for greater transparency between miners and governments for decades.
Amongst them is Oxfam Australia, which is supportive of Australia signing on to the EITI but warns it does not go far enough.
Oxfam supports a program called ‘Publish What You Pay’ which would make disclosure requirements mandatory.
Chris Madden, the head of Oxfam Australia’s mining advocacy group, said that would be achieved by enshrining it legislation.
“With both parties heading into this election, Oxfam is calling for mandatory disclosure legislation,” he said.
I don’t think you can bring out the big stick all the time
Trish O’Reilly, CEO, Australia-Africa Minerals Energy Group
“That would require Australian mining companies to report on the taxes that they’ve paid on a country by country, and project by project, basis.
“This is really important for citizens in mining countries so they can hold companies to account for what they should be paying.
“And also for them to hold their own governments to account for what they’ve been paid by mining companies.”
According to Publish What You Pay, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in resource-rich countries.
Australia-Africa mine alliance rejects legislation
Australian mining, exploration, oil and gas and resource services companies have extensive links with African countries.
There are an estimated 200 ASX listed companies operating there, many of them members of the Australia-Africa Mineral and Energy Group (AAMEG).
AAMEG, formerly the Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group, has been a strong advocate of the EITI process and is a supporting member.
“The EITI has done a lot to promote and support improved governance in resource-rich countries,” CEO Trish O’Reilly said.
“However, AAMEG doesn’t believe the process should be legislated.
“I don’t think you can bring out the big stick all the time; it’s about ethics and morals and what [transparent] business should do.
“Rather than saying ‘you have to do this’.”