The limitations of business power in Australia : a case study of coal seam gas in Gloucester

  • Katie Christie

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis uses a case study of a Coal Seam Gas (CSG) project in Gloucester, a regional area in the State of New South Wales (Australia), to examine the limitations of business power. The literature on the power of business is used to identify the reasons why AGL Energy exited from the Gloucester Gas Project (GGP), including the events that led up to this decision. The analysis places a particular focus on the work of Charles Lindblom, an influential neopluralist, and two of his key critics, David Vogel and Pepper Culpepper, who both identify important limitations on the power of business. Whilst the literature on business power recognises that business and government are involved in an exchange relationship – and that this relationship gives business a privileged position in the policy making process – scholars have also noted several important restrictions on business power. These restrictions on business power can originate from factors such as: interest group mobilisation, particularly when well-resourced and well-led interest groups form in opposition to business interests; the role of the media in drawing attention to an issue and generating public debate around it; changing economic circumstances that may impact on the profitability of a business operation; and practices of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that lead businesses to change their strategies in order to satisfy consumer demands and, thus, ensure their continued financial success.
    A largely qualitative research methodology, including semi-structured interviews, was used in this thesis to gain insight into the complexities and power dynamics associated with the GGP both before and after AGL’s decision to exit from the project. A newspaper study was also used to identify media coverage and bias along with an analysis of AGL’s share price and international oil and gas price data. The thesis finds that, although economic factors were the core reason for AGL’s decision to exit the GGP, interest group mobilisation was another significant factor in limiting business power. It argues for greater understanding of the complexities of business power, including the role that interest groups can play in influencing business outcomes.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMary Walsh (Supervisor), David Marsh (Supervisor), Paul Fawcett (Supervisor), Lain Dare (Supervisor) & Robin Tennant-Wood (Supervisor)

    Cite this