One of Canberra’s most effective rent-seekers, the Minerals Council, yesterday proudly unveiled its new advertising campaign for coal, titled Coal: Making the future possible, which peddles the myth of “the role that high efficiency, low emission (HELE) coal-fired generation plants provide in reducing emissions”. Something that caught our eye, however, was the claim in the accompanying press release that coal was “a major employer in NSW, Queensland and Victoria”.

Hmmm. We checked the ABS’ employment data, which shows a total of 45,000 Australians employed in coal mining across Australia, or 0.4 of 1% of the workforce. Still, what about in those states? The ABS doesn’t break down industry subdivision by state, but let’s just take the entire mining industry in each state: 41,000 in NSW out of a workforce of 3.8 million, or just over 1%. In Victoria, 11,000 out of 3.8 million, or 0.2 of 1%; in Queensland, 60,000 out of 2.4 million or 2.5%. Even in Queensland, mining is hardly a “major” employer, let alone coal mining. So we asked the Minerals Council what they meant by “major”. They replied that coal mining “gross value-added per worker was $405,204 higher than every industry in Australia except the total mining industry” and that “given that coal mining generally operates in rural and regional areas, the community contribution and value of every coal mining job is magnified even more.” So there you have it. Guess that nuance didn’t make it into the press release.

Peter Fray

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