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Woodside or Seaside?

In June, Monash announced a $10 million partnership with oil and gas giant, Woodside Petroleum. Monash claims that the partnership “aims to drive significant advances in the energy sector, bringing positive economic benefits to Australia”. However, some have criticized the partnership for various ethical and environmental reasons.

In light of the Woodside Monash partnership, Woodside’s senior vice-president and chief technology officer, Shaun Gregory, stated that “our vision for our Monash centre is for us to rapidly advance commercial opportunities through materials engineering, additive manufacturing and data science… We are really excited about collaborating with researchers and experts from Monash to identify opportunities to solve real-life challenges we face at Woodside”.

This partnership began 135 kilometres northwest off the coast of Karratha, WA, at Woodside’s Goodwyn Alpha natural gas platform where the Monash centre assisted Woodside’s operations. During a maintenance shutdown, a vital safety switch had broken and panic ensued about the delay in production. The workers assumed that they would be waiting three weeks to receive the missing part and resume operations.

“They needed it by the end of the week, so we reached out to the Monash team, a hand sketch of the part was drawn, emailed through, there were some questions and answers and the part was soon on a helicopter up to Goodwyn,” Mr Gregory said.

Woodside’s gift of $10 million – the largest philanthropic donation in the history of Monash University – will be spent over the time period of 5 years and will be concentrated in the Woodside Innovation Centre, located in the New Horizons building, which is situated behind the Hargrave-Andrew Library. The centre was officially opened on June 15 by the Hon. Josh Frydenberg, who was the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia at the time. Praising the partnership, Frydenberg, now Minister for the Environment and Energy, hailed it as “exactly the type of industry-academic collaboration we need to see more of in Australia”.

Monash University Vice Chancellor, Margaret Gardner, was also present at the opening of the centre, claiming that Monash was, and “very grateful,” to Woodside for their “generous contribution”.

However, others have been far less supportive of the partnership. Secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Victoria Branch, Colin Long, and expressed concern about what it meant for Monash students: “In essence, Monash is contributing to the further undermining of the futures of the young people that it is educating.”

He elaborated that “it is disappointing that Monash continues to develop research initiatives with companies that are determined to exploit fossil fuels to the detriment of the climate and the world’s people… thus exacerbating the problem of carbon emissions and global warming.” He continues: “the longer universities continue to accept the dirty money of the fossil fuel industry, the longer they expose themselves to the financial, social and moral risks associated with that industry”.

Electrical engineering student and Monash Student Association Welfare offi cer, Brendan Holmes, expressed similar concerns: “By endorsing Woodside, Monash University is sending the message to graduates that it’s okay to work for a company that is damaging to the environment. Engineering talent will be directed toward the fossil fuel industry, delaying the necessary shift towards clean, renewable energy.”

In April, Monash announced that the university was going to cease all direct investments in coal companies over a five year period. This was hailed by non-for- profit organisations like 350.org as a step towards Monash University joining over 500 other institutions, representing $3.4 trillion globally, that have committed to sell their investments in coal, oil and gas companies Fossil Free Monash campaigner and Arts/Law student, Rhyss Wyllie, speculates about how the partnership has impacted Monash’s recent financial decisions: “This partnership reveals the vested interests at play in the recent decision by Monash to divest from coal companies but not utter a word about oil and gas”.

“The ‘largest corporate’ gift in Monash’s history comes with a price tag – Monash’s continued profiteering from the industry that is destroying the climate and corrupting our political system,” Wyllie said.

Join the fight to take action against and to help build awareness of the Monash Woodside partnership by joining the Fossil Free Monash Facebook or getting in contact via email at fossilfreemonash@gmail.com

Tags : divestmentfossil-freeMaggie GMonashWoodside
Elyse Walton

The author Elyse Walton

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