As Treasurer Joe Hockey rails against the “age of entitlement” and brings down harsh budget cuts on the most vulnerable parts of society, the mining industry’s own age of entitlement is set to continue, with almost $18 billion handed to it from State Governments in the past six years and no end in sight.
A new report from The Australia Institute details the vast scope of mining assistance from the states – not including Federal support and subsidies such as the $2.4 billion annual diesel rebate – and asks what this has cost the country in terms of doctors, teachers, nurses, police, fire fighters, schools, hospitals, and major infrastructure.
It’s a discussion we need to have, given the mining boom is not coming back no matter how hard Prime Minister Abbott pushes the coal barrow.
So what have we got: The mining industry routinely inflates its contribution to jobs and the economy, but it is careful to not draw attention to the fact that four fifths of mining operations are owned by foreign companies, and that the bulk of royalties paid to State Governments are returned in industry assistance. The Queensland government, for example, handed $1.5 billion to the mining industry in 2013-14, which is almost 60 per cent of the $2.6 billion it expects to get in royalties.
What could the billions handed out to rich mining firms have bought instead? Let’s see:
“Almost $18 billion dollars has been spent over the past 6 years by state governments, supporting some of Australia’s biggest, most profitable industries, which are sending most of the profits offshore. That’s $18 billion dollars that could have gone to vital public services such as hospitals, schools and emergency services.” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Dr Richard Denniss.
Iron ore is the largest export earner, however, the coal industry soaks up much of the assistance. It does so despite being a sunset industry that is cannot extract and burn 80 per cent of its dirty product if we are to stay under a 2DegC increase in global average temperatures.