Scott Morrison Minerals Council
(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

According to Scott Morrison, we have a lot to thank the mining sector for.

In a speech at the Minerals Council of Australia dinner at Parliament House last week, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his deep commitment to the industry, and railed against the “noisy, shouty voices” that wanted to shut it down:

There’s a Shire expression. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about it’s that wonderful southern part of Sydney. We have our own language and if we like something, this is what we say; ‘How good is mining?’

Morrison said that he would repeat this pro-mining mantra — of questionable origin — across the country, in Canberra, Townsville and Toorak. “I want you to succeed because stronger mining industry means a stronger Australia. A weaker mining industry means a weaker Australia,” he said.

The dinner came as part of the MCA’s Mining Week, a series of talks, panel discussions and events billed as “the industry’s opportunity to engage with decision-makers in Canberra”. But, how exactly did we end up here?

The hottest ticket in town

The MCA is a hugely influential lobby group which has poured millions into political coffers over the years. In early 2018, it made the oddly frank admission in a Senate inquiry that it had made donations to gain access to politicians, breaking from the standard line about “supporting democracy” usually employed by similar groups.

Last week’s dinner displayed the depths of this access. Morrison was joined on the guest list by numerous Coalition MPs, including Resources Minister Matt Canavan, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Environment Minister Melissa Price — who was recently called “invisible” by environmental groups over her conspicuous absence during a summer of heatwaves and natural disasters.

Who’s afraid of coal?

Morrison’s love of coal is well-documented. Last year, in a stunt his Liberal colleagues found hysterical, the then-treasurer brought a lump of coal into question time to wave at Labor. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared,” Morrison told the opposition.

Morrison is certainly not afraid to embellish the industry’s achievements. He told the crowd to give themselves a round of preemptive applause because he was certain the industry would help rebuild flood-ravaged communities in North Queensland. He claimed that the mining sector’s contribution to a strong economy was essential for the provision of affordable drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“When people try to shut you down, they are taking and robbing from Australians the ability for us to deliver those essential services on the ground,” he said.

The PM also gave a special shoutout to Hugh Morgan, a mining executive and prominent climate change sceptic, who currently leads a lobby group devoted to pulling Australia out of the Paris Agreement.

Morrison finished with a stark warning for attendees, claiming Labor’s 45% emissions reduction target could wipe out many of the businesses in the room. “I’ll stand up for you. I’m not sure some others will.”