Mark Wootton

As the founder and chair of The Climate Institute, I absolutely refute the overriding point in Guy Pearse’s article that The Climate Institute was or ever has been a partisan organisation (‘Comment’, September).

The comment that our mission was to get rid of John Howard was absolute nonsense. There was and is a much more strategic and broad agenda at play. If Pearse had shown the courtesy and rigour when writing the article to contact me I would have provided the evidence to support my claims with both demonstrated actions and policy briefs.

I also don’t intend to spend time defending the role of philanthropy and social change and the possible problem of the article discouraging the funding of such change in the future. If I did, I would be as guilty as Pearse was when he wrote his article without offering evidence to support such a claim. I am nervous about its influence but only time will tell if it has an impact.

However, I do intend to defend my role as a current or past director or chair of The Climate Institute, past director of the Australia Institute and past board member of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

After the article was published, I did contact and was contacted by a number of the past and present chairs, presidents and CEOs of the organisations that I sat on as a director. Without exception, they all stated that at no time did I ever act in an inappropriate manner or seek to have unfair influence when I was on the boards of these organisations. Not that there were not times when I had to absent myself from board meetings when conflict of interest issues arose.

I find the assertion that I would use my financial influence to affect decisions of the organisations deeply offensive. More importantly, there was no evidence provided to support such a claim. I have undertaken the full formal training through the Australian Institute of Company Directors. I chair a number of governance committees on boards and am regularly asked to talk about such matters to NGO boards. To imply that I ever acted with anything other than what would be expected of a director or chair under the Australian Corporation Act or according to best practice governance is simply untrue.

To even presume that I could have the influence that the article states is ridiculous and displays what a limited understanding that Pearse has about the rigour and structure of the organisations that he attacks. Yet again it shows the lack of careful and due diligence that Pearse undertook in writing this article. To be candid, one would only have to look through the boards of these organisations to get a grasp of the true independence and calibre of the directors on these boards to realise that it would be impossible for any one individual to have undue and unreasonable influence.

Mark Wootton

Hamilton, VIC