NSW Mining has sponsored a radio competition on one of Sydney’s top-rated breakfast shows, in which a listener has the chance to win $1 million if they register to be a “miner”.
The promotional poster for the competition, which features hosts Amanda Keller and Brendan Jones wearing miners’ hard hats, carries the slogan: “NSW Mining. Good for jobs. Good for Sydney’s economy.”
When registering, participants have the option to receive more information from NSW Mining.
The competition is a public relations exercise from an industry under pressure from a growing movement of people aware of the damage it does to people’s health and the environment.
Looking closely, the industry’s slogan does not stack up. The first claim, “good for jobs”, has been proven false.
Jobs from mining represent less than 2% of Australia’s total jobs. Most of these jobs are short-term and are lost after the initial construction phase.
And because mining drives up the dollar, export industries such as farming, manufacturing, education and tourism suffer as their goods and services become more expensive and therefore less attractive to buyers. This leads to a fall in jobs in these areas.
Mining also has a direct negative impact on several specific businesses, such as individual farms, fishing businesses and tourism operators. The fishing industry in the Gladstone area has been decimated by dredging in the Great Barrier Reef to build export terminals for gas, as healthy marine stock is no longer available.
Graziers next to coalmines in Queensland find it impossible to raise cattle with coal dust covering their properties, including their water sources and fodder. Places that tourists once flocked to, such as the NSW Hunter Valley, are no longer desirable destinations as mining encroaches more and more on them.
In a desperate promotion for gas last year, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association claimed the gas industry had created 100,000 jobs the year before in Australia. In reality, the number was only one-tenth of that.
The second claim, “good for Sydney’s economy”, does not stand up to scrutiny either.
The Australia Institute says: “The NSW mining industry pays around $1.5 billion in royalties per year. While this may seem a large sum of money, in the context of the state government’s budget it is uncomfortably small — around 2% of total revenue. The vast bulk of state government revenue comes from workers and businesses in other industries like nurses, teachers, tradies, retailers and manufacturers.”
Mining companies are always complaining about the royalties they have to pay and say they should not be paying high tax as well, but these minerals belong to the Australian people, who therefore should be fairly compensated.
As 83% of mining companies operating in Australia are foreign-owned, the profits go straight to overseas shareholders.
Finally, despite mining being a lucrative business, the companies are subsidised by Australian governments with about $10 billion a year. No other industry in Australia receives subsidies at this level.
The main subsidies include extremely generous research and development tax concessions, accelerated depreciation of mines and equipment, fuel tax concessions and huge, state-funded infrastructure projects.
This is $10 billion of taxpayers’ money that is not spent on vital services such as education, transport, health and disability services.
It seems unfair that $10 billion a year is handed over to destructive fossil fuel companies that do not even benefit Australia’s economy.
Far from being “good for the economy”, the industry puts a strain on it.
More broadly, what use is a healthy economy if people have no clean water to drink or clean air to breathe?
The simple answer is for Australia’s government to invest in renewable energy technologies that have been proven to work here and overseas.
Estimated building costs of large-scale renewables have fallen by 30% in the past year. Solar thermal plants already operate or are being developed and built on all continents, except for Australia.
Unfortunately, the renewable energy industry does not have millions of dollars to spend on advertising on top radio stations. But it does have the strength of a growing movement of people who are rejecting the lies of fossil fuel companies and demanding change.