Downsides of the mining boom

I’m MC at a free public forum in Brisbane tomorrow (Tuesday) evening on the topic of Can Queensland Afford the Mining Boom?

The forum is organised by The Australia Institute, whose Executive Director, Dr Richard Denniss will be speaking. It will explore the economic and social downsides of the mining boom. (I imagine some of the environmental downsides will get a mention too).  I did a brief interview with Richard Denniss about this issue on my weekly radio show on 4ZZZ FM. You can listen to it by clicking on this link.

Rather than taking this as an ‘all mining is bad’ message, I’d see it more as a ‘not all mining is good’ position, including being aware of and trying to mitigate or prevent some of the many negatives that can and are coming from a ‘full steam ahead’ approach to the current mining boom.

This is a concern which is getting much wider attention across more of the political and media spectrum of late. Graham Lloyd in The Australian has written a number of pieces in recent times touching on some aspects of this issue, including this one about concerns over potential loss of highly fertile farmland and impacts on water quality in the Liverpool Plains and elsewhere, and this one about concerns in Broome over the likely impact on affordability and the social fabric in the region.

Of course, Queensland seems to also be putting a large part of our hope in rapid expansion in coal and gas to drive economic growth. No doubt this would produce a nice looking number in regards to GDP growth, but such a figure does not measure the economic downsides particularly for the vast majority who are not directly employed in the mining area.

The forum goes from 6:15pm – 7:15pm, Tuesday 9 August at the Brisbane Workers’ Community Centre, 2 Latrobe St, Paddington. It’s free, and as befits a politics in the pub style event, is intended to be relatively informal and discussion provoking.


I just found this interesting YouTube video of an Al Jazeera story, looking at different aspects and impacts of the mining boom on north-west Western Australia. Well worth a look.

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  1. To Andrew Bartlett – You and your fellow Democrat Senator Woodley gave me a good hearing years ago when I blew the whistle on mining in Queensland. I share your view that not all mining is good. A lot more mining could be considered “good” if only the regulation of mining had not failed so badly. I blew the whistle on non-enforcement of mining laws in 1992 and was dudded by the Queensland government, the CJC and the Ombudsman. There is still non-enforcement and non-compliance and that is why we should say NO to mining expansion until our trust in mining regulation is restored. Please see my recent submission to the Senate on this matter ref

  2. Thanks Jim

    Yes I remember that – and the work you’ve done subsequently.

    That link doesn’t seem to work. Can you tell which Senate Committee it was to? I’ll see if I can put a better link to it in.

  3. Thanks for chairing a forum on this important topic, Andrew.
    Poorly regulating mining is a huge concern here on the Darling Downs, with current and proposed mines (mainly coal) threatening fertile country and water sources as well as communities.
    Hazel Green

  4. To Andrew Bartlett – suggest you google -Leggate Senate coal mining -or give me an email address and I ‘ll copy my submission to you.
    Regards Jim Leggate

  5. got to ask yourself
    with the state and fed govts obsessed in giving out mining rites to overseas owned company’s to mine coal and other minerals .in some of the countrys most productive farming land mainly for export .
    whos getting the benefit .
    and just where are the greens hiding
    they now have the power and oppitunity to influence the govts obsession.
    for mining royalty taxes.

  6. RC: the Greens have quite active and visible on this for some time, both in fighting the rapid expansion of mining on prime farm land, and on calling for a fairer share of revenue for Australians from the super profits that mining companies are currently reaping.

  7. i know this is so andrew and they are to be commended for there efforts
    but now they have real power in the senate
    they now have the opportunity to really make a difference .
    as iv sead recently they will be judged on what they do now not what they say
    i for one hope they can make a difference in regards to the plundering of australias resources buy over seas companys and the weakness of our governments to the smell of a few fast bucks .

  8. The Greens have some power in the Senate – certainly more than previously, but nowhere near as much power as Labor or the Liberals, let alone the two of them combined.

  9. Thanks for the video, Andrew. It seems to cover most of the issues from a variety of perspectives, except for this one:

    When Senator John Madigan and Tony Zegenhagen (DLP) went to look at various problems in regional areas, they found that some local councils were charging $1300 per quarter on rates notices, with no discernable equivalent return to ratepayers in the form of infrastructure and/or services.

    I think the idea of paying local aboriginal peoples to work in the mining industry is excellent.

    I would also like to see more steel products being manufactured here in Australia, rather than sending copious quantities of iron ore to China and India, and then having to buy back inferior value-added products, which is damaging to the Australian economy.

    I’d also like to know why we sell natural gas to China for little more than a song, while Australians have to pay top dollar.

    As most people are probably aware, in the last 2 weeks, thousands of jobs have been lost in the manufacturing industry, with OneSteel (part of Fortescue Metals Group) and BlueScope Steel laying off staff.

    We also have bumper crops of cotton after a highly successful season, with enough water available to achieve the same again next year. Why doesn’t the government set up new clothing industries to improve employment prospects and economic outcomes for all Australians?

    One more question: It seems that Nationals, Katter’s Party, DLP and Greens all have a huge interest in developing regional Australia. What do the Greens plan to do with it?

  10. with the govt allowing countrys like china and india entrenching them selves in the production transport and export of the products they own we will eventually be locked out of the process and be at the mercy and whims of the overseas companys who will eventually bring there own workers in to do the job and we will not have a say in it at all . this is the future we as a country are loosing the opitunity to stop this happening .
    we should be looking further than the next royalty payments and plan for the next generations and the long term effects and not let it escape from us .

  11. Andrew Bartlett Says:
    The Greens have some power in the Senate – certainly more than previously, but nowhere near as much power as Labor or the Liberals, let alone the two of them combined.
    9 Senators makes them a powerful force in the Senate.
    The also hold one seat in the HOR and with this they have the deciding vote in both houses.
    The ALP’s lust for power has no doubt contributed to the greens having far too much input into a Government that will be lucky to escape the bloodbath that will follow this government’s term after being.. Oh too close to the greens. No doubt the ALP will take the blame for many of the demands placed on them by the greens.

  12. Greens have the balance of power to rule anything in or out, but only as long as the Coalition and Labor are opposed to each other.

    I can still remember the day that Senator Steve Fielding moved an amendment to limit payouts to CEOs of more than $1 million to shareholder approval. Labor and Liberals all voted against it. Only Greens sided with him, which is highly peculiar, but also indicative of Labor/Liberals’ support for corporate greed.

    At the next federal election (also the state election here in Queensland), Labor politicians will bite the dust in unprecedented numbers. If the vote mainly swings to the LNP, it will be a huge disappointment.

    I would prefer to see a variety of smaller parties and independents running both the state and the nation.

  13. small party’s and independents will be dumped faster than the alp because of what they are responsible for .
    if qld go, s the way it is expected to then the fed govt as it stands at the moment will follow .
    and to bring back Kevin will not help i think it will make things worse for the alp the voters have not forgotten mr rudd .

  14. Red Crab:

    I think Kevin Rudd’s name has been thrown into the mix as a red herring. Most people I know think he aspires to a position in the United Nations, and I think it has been obvious for years that he wishes to rule the Asia/Pacific.

    Other names I have heard being floated to succeed Julia Gillard are:

    Bill Shorten
    Stephen Smith
    Simon Crean

    I have always liked Stephen Smith – it’s just a pity he is batting for the Slave Labor Party, who are eager to empower corporates in a global government.

    My personal favourite is Jenny Macklin.

    Getting back to the mining boom, I think the government is using the coal seam gas debacle to get rid of Aussie farmers/graziers and other people from Regional Australia.

    I think they want to clear the decks so the Chinese can take over, which I think is also connected with the privatisation of rail and ports.

    I think everyone knows we are just becoming a huge quarry for the primary benefit of the Chinese economy.

    I think it is possible that the DLP, Katter’s Party, Nationals and Greens could work together where regional Australia is concerned.

    Forget about Liberals and Slave Labor.

  15. A woman on the video complained that the government will not build schools in regional areas. My view is that they don’t build schools anywhere if they can possibly add another demountable building and squeeze in a few hundred more students.

    In the Canberra area, they closed 15 schools a couple of years ago, before even building the new one.

  16. (I have redone this taking a bit out that is superfluous in the first education equation, and adding a bit to the second.)


    Further to my previous comment on schools everywhere in Australia (not just regional areas), I believe Julia Gillard has set up the My School Website in order to introduce school fees, after corporates have “come to our rescue” and taken over.

    I think “My This” and “My That” are terms designed to psychologically program the populace into believing they must take responsibility for all of their own requirements on a “user pays” basis.

    We already have:

    My School
    My Super
    My Woolies (for Chrissake!)

    Possibly others I cannot think of immediately.

    This makes me wonder if we are going to be subjected to a finite monetary limit on what we are to be rationed in corporate supermarkets, and their other long list of secretly owned shops (books, clothing, hardware, electrical etc). Perhaps they intend to inflict this on welfare recipients first, before landing it on the masses.

    If your superannuation investment slips down a hellhole, who is going to take financial responsibility, if it is no one’s Super but yours?

    It is my belief that Liberals decided to give 2/3 of the school building funds to private schools educating less than 1/3 of the students for reasons other than those stated.

    I believe both Labor and Liberals are allowing private schools to greedily fleece the parents (some of whom are on fairly ordinary wages) of the necessary 50% contribution to match government funding.

    This makes the private schools larger, possibly more numerous, and capable of educating more students. This is the short term goal.

    I believe the longer term goal is to tax the churches out of existence, corporatise all schools and charge everyone high fees, while rationing everything.

    I think private school parents (also taxpayers) will continue to demand their share of the Education Budget, especially since the public system is turning into little more than a bunch of overcrowded ghettos.

    Loss of Public School Building Funds + Poor Curricula + Poor Behavioural Standards = Large Private Building Funds + Filling of More Private School Classrooms + Greater Demands for Education Funding.

    Poor Standards in Public Schools + Taxation of Churches = Corporate Takeover of All Education + Daylight Robbery.

    I think the only fair thing is probably to charge everyone means tested fees (some will not pay anything), and provide government funding to all school students, after taking into account recurrent funding. l reject any form of Performance Based Funding, because schools (whether private or public) in richer areas could then pick up more than their fair share of the brighter students along with more money.

    These are my individual views, not anyone else’s.

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