Apr 16, 2014

Minerals Council raked over the coals for troubled PR campaign

The Minerals Council has a new pro-coal PR campaign, but it seems to be a flop. We factcheck "Australians for Coal".

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

When the brains behind the Minerals Council launched an advertising campaign to defeat Labor's mining tax, they nailed it. The tax was gutted, and the PM who dared propose it -- Kevin Rudd -- lost his job. Miners spent $22 million on the ads and saved billions in tax they never had to pay. Now the Minerals Council has a new multimillion-dollar ad campaign, this one to defend the coal industry. But "Australians for Coal" doesn't seem destined for the success of the anti-Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) campaign. This campaign seems to be a dud. Launched on Monday because coal is "under attack from powerful groups determined to shut the industry", the PR campaign includes a slick pro-coal website and TV ads (they'll come later). Its dedicated Twitter handle turned into a social media farce within hours, and its campaign to get the public to email conservationists seems to have failed. So what's the campaign aimed at? The federal Coalition government is already on coal's side -- there's little risk of an RSPT-style tax there. Rather, it seems to be aimed at pressuring state governments (and courts) to approve coal developments, and encouraging investment funds and super funds to stick with coal despite conservationists' complaints. With the Minerals Council's PR strategy under a cloud, Crikey has fact-checked Australians for Coal. The campaign says it will "help start to set the record straight". Does it?

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14 thoughts on “Minerals Council raked over the coals for troubled PR campaign

  1. ianjohnno

    ROFL. This is what happens when people believe their own propaganda.
    A curse on them all.

  2. Electric Lardyland

    “Australians For Coal”: yes, I’m sure that they’re just a bunch of concerned average citizens, who were so offended by renewable energy, that they decided to form their own grassroots organisation. And I’m sure that they wouldn’t get any funding for their PR blitz, from coal mining corporations or anyone like that.

  3. David Hand

    Coal is an essential ingredient for making steel. The alternative process using scrap metal merely melts and recycles old steel. There is no methodology to make steel other than turning coal into coke, and iron ore into sinter, layering them into a blast furnace and then blasting air and oxygen through them to generate the chemical reaction that releases pig iron that is then further refined.

    The greenie idea of electric arc processing scrap is a thought bubble dressed up for PR purposes. 70% of Queensland’s coal exports are coking or metallurgical coal used for making steel.

  4. Tamara Kovacs

    See, this is why you just shouldn’t mess with Twitter. Or try to force a meme. I’m not sure why they didn’t see it coming.

  5. Gavin Moodie

    I am very pleased that my superannuation company, UniSuper, has recently excluded coal from its socially responsible option.

  6. JohnB

    Whoever said that making cement, specifically portland cement, does not need coal should do a bit of reading. The alternatives aren’t exciting either.

    Besides which, converting CaCO3 to CaO leads to large emissions of CO2 from this source alone.

    Cement is a villain for two reasons – coal consumption and CO2 production from lime.

  7. Cathy Alexander

    Thanks JohnB, I’ll look into it further. It was scientists from the ANU and UNSW who told me coal was not essential to making cement (steel is more complicated because coal often used as a chemical input). Your point about CO2 being a byproduct of making cement is very valid (tho not technically relevant to the Minerals Council’s claim that “Coal is also an essential ingredient in the manufacture of … cement”).

  8. AR

    The corporatists did so well with the Australian Forest Alliance and People for Forests one might have expected them to learn but that is the difference between primates & kapitalists, they learn from experience.

  9. AR

    Is there not something called “truth in advertising” legislation…?

  10. Gavin Moodie

    Unfortuntaely there is no law against lying, in advertising or anyhow else. However, s18(1) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 provides –

    ’18 Misleading or deceptive conduct

    ‘(1) A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.’

    Is this ‘in trade or commerce’?

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