Carlo's Corner: The mining bosses have checked, they still own our resources

Saturday, June 2, 2012
“We used to have just stunning scenery round these parts ... ah ... and then it was an equally lovely iron ore mine ... and now ... ah ... have you seen the Big Banana?”

Politics in this country can sometimes seem like a magic trick aimed at young children. “Look over there! Do you see? Those Boat People are taking all your taxes and your homes and your bread! Look! What an outrage!” And then Gina Rinehart jumps up behind our backs and nicks all our resources.

And that stuff is non-renewable. Once the mining bosses have flogged it off to China to fill their bloated bank account balances, it’s gone for good. We’ll just be left with a bunch of holes in the ground.

It’ll be a bit hard to rebuild a tourist industry around that. “We used to have just stunning scenery round these parts ... ah ... and then it was an equally lovely iron ore mine just beautiful to look at in full flow ... and now ... ah ... have you seen the Big Banana? It’s wonderful. You've really got to get there.”

It is not just Rinehart, or her cartoonish right-wing “don’t-tax-our-billions-we-need-it-all” fellow travellers Twiggy Forrest and Clive Palmer. The really big players in Australian mining are companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. And they don’t like it when anyone questions their right to exploit natural resources without any consideration for people or the planet.

Coalminers in Queensland’s Bowen Basin found this out when they launched a three-day strike against BHP Billiton on May 29 and the company whined that the workers were among the best paid in the country.

Which is all well and good, except the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union kept saying the strike was over safety. I realise the heads of BHP put a lot of faith in the power of huge wads of cold hard cash, but if a fucking mine collapses on you, I am pretty sure it just collapses on you without much regard to your bank balance.

I guess that just shows how greedy these workers are, wanting to earn big salaries and keep all their limbs. Some people can just never have enough.

But the point at which Rinehart earns as much in one second than the weekly minimum wage earns is the point at which this grand theft gets a bit hard to hide.

So Prime Minister Julia Gillard used her May 30 address to the mining company executives' Minerals Council of Australia to “remind” the mining bosses that the resources enriching them really “belong” to the Australian people.

No doubt this caused momentary confusion in the crowd, before a few quick phone calls reassured the execs that, no, it’s fine, they still own all our resources.

Gillard spoke a lot about “spreading the benefits” of the mining boom, which was a bit strange seeing as, after she replaced Kevin Rudd, her first move was to drastically water down Rudd’s proposed mining tax at the mining companies' behest.

The PM has clearly learned the lesson: if you are going to engage in populist rhetoric against the powerful corporations that run the country, make sure you don’t actually propose a single change to the status quo. That way the children’s pantomime show that is Australian politics can continue uninterrupted.

Read more Carlo's Corner columns.

From GLW issue 925