Tobacco companies cannot sponsor Australian arts. Should we also ban the giants of fossil fuels?

PPressure is building on arts and cultural institutions to sever ties with fossil fuel companies, with a number of Australia’s big arts businesses still relying on sponsorship from mining groups, while those operating in wealthy states natural resources face the greatest challenges in securing alternative financing.

There are now at least two organizations based in Australia – Comms Declare and 350.org – who hunt down sponsorship deals and pressure arts, sports, culture and other non-profit organizations and government institutions to drop lucrative partnerships with coal, oil and gas companies. gas.

A database created by 350.org shows that more than 400 organizations and institutions across all sectors in Australia still rely on fossil sponsorship, including nearly two dozen music festivals and arts companies, including the West Australia Symphony Orchestra, the West Australian Ballet, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Perth Party.

Last month, in what is believed to be an unprecedented event, a coalition of philanthropists, artists and First Nations representatives offered the Darwin Festival a $200,000 funding deal if the festival cuts ties with Santos. On the day the coalition deal was to be discussed, the oil and gas giant anticipated the decision and announced that it would not renew its sponsorship.

But the Guardian understands Darwin The festival remains in lengthy negotiations over the $200,000 offer, which includes a condition that the festival board must cede naming rights to its opening concert to traditional owners in the greater Darwin area, the nation Larrakia. Both parties have agreed not to discuss the negotiation process with the media while it is still underway.

On Wednesday, volunteer group Comms Declare, which says it represents more than 360 organizations fighting against the promotion of fossil fuel companies, launched its campaign to pressure the National Australia Day Council to end its partnership with Chevron.

In a report On Thursday, Chevron said it would not renew its sponsorship of Australia Day in 2023. “We acknowledge that there have been comments about the support provided by the energy industry for programs and events arts and culture, however, our decision is based on our goal to support the needs of the most vulnerable members of the communities where we live and work,” the statement read.

But Chevron remains a major sponsor of the Perth festival. Its bolder festival cousin, Perth Fringe World, reported in June that it was review his primary sponsorship deal with Woodside after three consecutive years of protests. weeks later it was revealed that Woodside had in fact transferred its sponsorship to the festival’s nonprofit parent company, Artrage.

Three artists protest against sponsorship of Woodside at the Fringe World launch event in Perth in January 2019. Photography: Miles Tweedie

“It’s a question of ethics”

Comms Declare President and Founder Belinda Noble said the goal of these campaigns is to see the nation’s advertising and sponsorship laws for fossil fuel companies become as restrictive as those imposed on tobacco companies a while ago. decades, with sports, arts and cultural organizations being a priority.

According to a report published by Swinburne University last month, fossil fuel companies spent between $14 million and $18 million a year sponsoring elite sports. Recent controversies include Santos’ sponsorship of the Wallabies for his UK tour and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting. pull out of a $15 million deal with Netball Australia.

“It’s an ethical issue, and obviously there are shades of gray,” Noble told Guardian Australia. “But you have to ask yourself, is it fair that these corporations harm our environment and way of life and still be allowed to co-opt reputable artists and art institutions to support their dirty business? You must be wondering what is the ethics of helping to promote an organization whose product kills more people in the world than tobacco? »

350.org Australia played a major role in the Woodside campaign against Perth Fringe. Kelly Albion, the organization’s campaigns director, said she continues to lobby organizations and institutions that cling to these funding relationships. “The whole momentum has started to build recently, with more people talking about it in the sports space and also in the arts space,” she said.

The arts organizations of Western Australia still seem heavily dependent on the largesse of companies such as Chevron and Woodside, she added. WA has the largest concentration of fossil fuel operations in the country.

Woodside continues to sponsor the West Australian Ballet, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the West Australian Youth Orchestra.

A spokesperson for the state’s flagship ballet company said it expects to “have clarity” on the Woodside sponsorship issue by the end of next week. The two state orchestras did not respond to questions from the Guardian.

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra names oil and gas exploration company Australia Pacific LNG as its lead partner. A spokesperson for the orchestra said its decade-long partnership with the company has allowed QSO to perform and connect with regional communities, “which otherwise wouldn’t happen”.

The Art Gallery of South Australia also depends on the support of mining giant BHP, a relationship that will continue until at least the end of 2024. BHP was an integral part of the Tarnanthi Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Project of the AGSA for seven years, a spokesperson for the gallery said.

“Projects are artist-driven, with the artist always in charge; thorough listening and ongoing community consent are essential,” the spokesperson added.

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