One of Australia’s richest men Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has pledged a whopping $70 million to Australia’s bushfire relief efforts in the single biggest donation to date.
Forrest is a major player in Australia’s mining industry, and was a vocal challenger to the mining and carbon taxes. Many people were quick to criticise his donations, claiming he should’ve paid more tax in the first place.
Through his philanthropic organisation Minderoo Foundation, the mining magnate announced that a total of $70 million would be donated as part of a bushfire recovery package focusing on immediate and long-term solutions to the crisis.
The first $10 million will be used to build a 1200-strong volunteer army consisting of mining and agriculture workers to help rebuild communities that have been ravaged by the fires.
“We are putting together a small army of 1,250 skilled personnel from first-aid, emergency first responders, tradespeople, electricians, carpenters, project managers, construction and clean up personnel,” he said, according to the ABC.
A further $10 million will be used to support communities over the next two years in a joint effort with the Australian Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
And finally, a whopping $50 million will go towards a “national blueprint” for disaster resilience and fire to help minimise the threat of future bushfires and other disasters.
Forrest, who has an estimated net worth of $12.8 billion, hopes to raise $500 million to fund a long-term research project into bushfire management and prevention.
“[We can’t] make Australia fire-proof, we’ll never achieve that,” he said.
“Fires and disasters will be part of our lives. But [this] is to be able to mitigate them to be able to respond to them immediately and prevent the loss of life.”
The mining magnate acknowledged that global warming plays a part in the increase in bushfires, but was adamant that arson was the biggest threat.
“I think there’s a multitude of reasons why the fire extent has been so devastating. I think a warming planet would be part of that — [but] the biggest part of that is arsonists,” he said.
The idea of arson being the primary cause of this season’s bushfire crisis has been thrown around countless times, prompting RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons to publicly deny the conspiracy theory.
Minderoo Foundation works on a number of important causes including ending modern slavery and finding a cure for cancer. In 2017, Forrest made the single biggest philanthropic donation in Australian history, pledging a whopping $400 million to a number of different causes.
However, not everyone is pleased with his donation, with many taking to Twitter to point out that mining companies are major contributors to the country’s carbon emissions.
This is wonderful. It would be even better if Twiggy and his billionaire mates stopped opposing policies like the mining tax and the Carbon Price so that government had enough collective funding to look after their citizens without the need for philanthropy. Just an idea.
— ????Queen Victoria (@Vic_Rollison) January 9, 2020
— Seano (@SeanBradbery) January 9, 2020
I think the obscene wealth of people like Twiggy is what is wrong with Australia. He can afford to donate $70 million to bushfires because he has been allowed to rip the nation's resources out of the ground while utilising gaps deliberately left in the tax system by loving MPs.
— Mark Dickenson 2016 Senate Candidate & Activist. (@bugwannostra) January 9, 2020
The Twiggy Conundrum: If you fought tooth and nail to remove carbon tax. Pay f-all company tax. But then donate heaps of personal wealth to bush fire appeal… sorry I've lost the will to finish this ????#ClimateEmergency
— Order No.227 (@AnthonyCole68) January 9, 2020
Although his hefty donation will undoubtedly be a huge help during the bushfire crisis, many people believe that the government would’ve been able to adequately handle the situation if mining giants such as himself and his Fortescue Metals Group were taxed more efficiently.
According to the Australian Financial Review, Fortescue Metals generated $9.1 billion in sales in the 2014-15 financial year, but reported only $208 of taxable income, of which Twiggy paid only $13.2 million.
The founder of a major mining company donating large sums of money to charity is a bit of a tough situation. Donations of this size obviously have a huge impact on the victims of these crises, but does that make up for the carbon emissions these mining giants create, and the minuscule amount of company tax they pay?
Money will help rebuild the communities that this bushfire season has devastated, but above anything else we need immediate climate action, especially from some of the biggest contributors in the country.
Philanthropic efforts are great, Andrew Forrest’s money is undoubtedly useful in times of crisis, but we must not let people buy their way out of taking responsibility for their carbon footprint.
Forrest is now the biggest donor to date, more than doubling the second highest donation of $30 million, made by the Paul Ramsay Foundation.
Other major donors include James Packer/Crown, NAB, Coles, the AFL and BHP, among countless other large sums from celebrities, companies and wealthy individuals.Image: AAP Images / U.S. EMBASSY CANBERRA PHOTOS