New coal and News Corp: report and documentary reveals extent of disinformation and climate-destroying projects approved during Black Summer bushfires

SYDNEY, May 13, 2020 - A new Greenpeace investigation has revealed that as Australia burned during the Black Summer bushfires, News Corp’s reporting drove a viral misinformation campaign to protect the fossil fuel industry, while over 100 million tonnes of new coal extraction was approved by Federal and State governments.

The Dirty Power: Burnt Country investigation today revealed that through a network of influence spanning the coal industry, the Coalition government, and News Corp, the influence of climate change on Australia’s Black Summer bushfires was deliberately covered up to the advantage of the fossil fuel industry.

“Even during a time of unprecedented coal-driven climate crisis, the fossil fuel industry still got its way by mobilising a dirty network of influence spanning Australian politics and media,” said Dr Nikola Casule, head of Research & Investigations at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

The investigation reveals over 100 million tonnes of new coal extraction was approved during the bushfires, as well as 352MW of fossil gas power stations, and 7,000km2 of new fossil fuel expansion areas opened up across New South Wales and Queensland.

“The most extraordinary part of all this is, despite fossil fuels being the main driver of this climate-fuelled bushfire crisis, the industry itself walked away not only unscathed but with a scandalous amount of new projects approved,” said Dr Casule.

The investigation has also found that during the bushfires, News Corp-owned publications repeatedly attacked public figures who spoke out about climate change, and consistently produced more articles falsely attributing the bushfires to a lack of hazard reduction burning and arson than other media organisations. 

News Corp publications also produced 75% of all articles that denied the influence of climate change, despite publishing only 46% of all articles on climate change and the bushfires.

A clear link between articles published by News Corp and the #ArsonEmergency online misinformation campaign was also revealed by the investigation, with commentary and opinion pieces published by News Corp driving spikes in online activity on the hashtag.

“It is well-established that climate change drives more severe fire seasons, and the biggest driver of climate change is the burning of coal,” said Dr Casule.

“While families fled, fires blazed, and koalas burned alive, the disinformation peddled by the Federal Government, NewsCorp, bots, and trolls was straight out of the coal industry’s playbook.” 

“The influence of the fossil fuel industry, through money and connections to the Federal Government and News Corp, has secured policies and actions that put the mining and burning of coal, gas, and oil above all else, even the safety of Australian families.” 

“Had the sheer volume of disinformation published not occurred, the fossil fuel industry may not have gotten away with continuing to lobby and push for bushfire-driving projects to be approved.”

“It is clear that until the grip of the fossil fuel industry over Australia’s government and media is broken, federal action on climate change will remain elusive, putting Australians at greater risk of facing another Black Summer in years to come.”


Notes for editors:

Access the report here and documentary here

Stills and video from film premiere at bushfire survivor’s home here

Online media pack available here

For more information please contact:

Communications Campaigner Martin Zavan on 0424 295 422 or email [email protected] 

Communications Manager Nelli Stevenson on 0428 113 346 or email [email protected]