Brave new Australian coal mines
Queensland, beautiful one day, black and ruined the next
Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, has been talking about what a great investment Queensland coal is. On the 19th of September 2010, for instance, on Channel 2's, The Investigators, he said how it was guaranteed to grow, and boasted about Queensland's huge coal haulage capacity - the biggest in the world.
Because of the need that China and India will have for coal, for the business community and a government keen to dig itself out of its debt, coal mining expansion can be marketed to a furious public as a 'wonderful financial investment opportunity'! For Fraser and the narrow thinking team he advises, it seems that the only important thing is digging the stuff up as fast as possible in order to promote financial investment in Queensland. This is the state with a huge debt because of its 'investment' in chaotic and resented population growth, the infrastructure for which it is now unable to attract finance.
What a lemming philosophy!
lemming cartoon author unknown
It strikes one, listening to this celebration of massive expansion of exploitation of a finite commodity, that it can only come from the blinkered idiocy of economic railroad-thinking. Railroad thinking is a term for a rigid way of thinking that can only go along a line, oblivious to wider implications. Apparently it has not occurred to Fraser that, along with rapid economic growth - for a while - he is hastening Australia and the rest of the world towards coal depletion simultaneously as we face declining oil. When we have significantly run down these conventional fuels, there will almost certainly be widespread famine and suffering in Australia and throughout the world. This may happen within the next thirty years, to read Seppo Korpela's timelines for coal depletion in The Final Energy Crisis.
When people are cold and hungry and the roads are deserted and the factories still, no-one then will look back and say, "Wasn't it great that people invested in digging up all the coal and Queensland managed to slightly reduce its insane debt?"
Survivors then will seem little different to those remaining on the destitute nation of Nauru. Once one of the richest, most beautiful and fertile islands in the world, Nauru is now completely devastated due to having excavated and exported its entire bounty of phosphates in a very short space of time. Of course, the Nauruans were conned and coerced by big business and so are Queenslanders.
Queensland, beautiful one day, black and ruined the next. Queenslanders hate the expansion of coal mining in their once-beautiful state, particularly those who have to live with the despair of watching helplessly as their immediate landscapes are defaced. The more widely educated world fears the pollution.
Newspeak from the BCA on population numbers
Relatedly there is the question of bringing in skilled immigrants to make over-exploitation of our coal resources possible. This has required ongoing propaganda from the growth lobby via its chief mouthpieces in the mainstream press. On September 18, 2010, in
The Australian, Michael Stutchbury quoted some sublime newspeak from the Business Council of Australia's president, Graham Bradley.
Bradley complains that the big pressing structural issues - energy, tax, population and infrastructure - were not given "mature" attention during the election campaign. The population debate, including Gillard's rejection of a "big Australia", did not recognise Australia received only 140,000 permanent immigrants on the latest annual figures. And the large numbers of temporary migrants are mostly foreign students who form Australia's fourth largest export market worth $18bn a year. [and therefore presumably should not count?]
"Mature" attention is code word for the inaudible level of debate that occurred before population growth finally hit the mainstream as a serious issue in the last 18 months," writes Ilan Goldman, energy and population critic. "The BCA just wants us to shut up (i.e. be "mature"). Pointing out that we only had 140,000 "permanent immigrants" is one of a few recent ploys contrived to minimize the obvious ballooning of our population. Bradley acknowledges foreign students as another component of population growth, not just formally defined "immigrants". All the other various visa categories that make a difference to overall population growth are pretty much ignored in this editorial piece in its pretense of some kind of sophisticated quantification."
BCA's Bradley, along with so many others, is fighting a carbon tax because it will increase the price of coal and might decrease the rate of sales overseas:
"The BCA's Bradley similarly warns that Australia faces losing its competitive benefit of cheap coal and gas energy."
Stutchbury also writes that BHP Billiton's Kloppers maintains that exploiting the China boom requires "extra sources of skilled labour." But relatively few people are employed in resource extraction industries, and the mining boom will dry up along with the minerals. Then what will we do with all those unemployed and their children, not to mention, without any income or coal for fuel? The resource extraction industries should not be cited as a reason for high immigration. And we should not be using up all our coal just in order to benefit a few financial investors. We need to conserve it.
Australia's population would still grow for a few more decades even if immigration rates broke even. Our current super-charged 2% growth rate means population doubling within 35 years. As Henry notes, Australia will still experience a "sizeable" population increase even if migration falls to "historically very low levels". He calls for "informed" population debate, according to Stuchbury.
"Informed" debate is, of course, another code-word for debate narrowly based on the growth lobby's limited world view that is focused on the profitability of its members.
"Population concerns have been inflamed by a generation of poor planning and infrastructure under-investment," BCA Bradley says, in a breathtaking confusion of cause with effect.
A child would surely recognize that population growth concerns relate to the current high levels of increase in numbers and the resultant impacts. Calling it "Underinvestment in infrastructure" is just a perversion of the symptom of overstretched infrastructure. But, hey, emperors don't really have to wear clothes. The mainstream press isn't going to call the growth lobby masters to order. It suffices that the populace just keep their eyes closed and that children keep quiet if they cannot help looking.