AGL admits breaking political donation laws

A protest at AGL headquarters in Sydney on August 7, 2014.

AGL was in court on August 25 after pleading guilty to 11 counts of breaking political donation disclosure laws in relation to coal seam gas approvals.

The breaches were first uncovered by the Gloucester community when it was fighting AGL's attempts to set up 110 coal seam gas wells on rich farming land near the town on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. They relate to donations AGL gave to the NSW Labor Party and the Liberals from 2008 to 2014.

AGL has a public policy on political donations that includes the principle of not making political donations.

Groundswell Gloucester engaged the Environmental Defenders Office to investigate the breaches. Sentencing was supposed to take place in June. The prosecution argued that the breaches undermined the integrity of the electoral system in NSW.

Sentencing was reserved and a final judgement is expected in coming weeks. According to the Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Hannam, AGL faces a maximum penalty of $22,000 for each of the breaches.

Sydney Lock the Gate Alliance coordinator Dan Robins said on August 25: “AGL's failure to disclose that it had made political donations while applying to the Department of Planning for development approvals for coal seam gas is a corporate crime.

“It highlights, yet again, the excessive influence that the mining industry has on decision-makers.

“It should not be up to the community to police the disclosure of political donations by the mining industry.

“It is clear that the requirement for companies to disclose donations is not sufficient. Therefore, Lock the Gate Alliance is calling for mining and gas companies to be added to the list of organisations that are banned from making political donations.”

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