Bible in one hand, shovel in the other: Tony Abbott is for coal – by Laura Tingle (Australian Financial Review – August 20, 2015)

Booms and busts used to be in the very marrow of the Australian experience. The gold rushes remain a staple of our education. Until the last 20 years or so of continuous growth, the spectacular nature of the booms and busts in the economy set the rhythm and drama, not just of personal fortunes but politics.

Yet even in recent decades, there has been nothing like a mining boom to stir a swarm of political flies.

The trouble now is that the longest and most spectacular boom in our history has ended. But politicians don’t seem quite sure what to do about it.

Where to go next when your rhetoric is all supposed to be about jobs and growth, and reassuring people that the economy will continue to be okay, even as the boom fades?

You could focus on new areas of growth – for example, the government recently announced a doubling of the NBN workforce to 9000 – or you could grab on to signs that the resources boom isn’t entirely over with a project that is boasting will generate (a contested) 10,000 jobs.

The Prime Minister famously said last year that coal was “good for humanity” – a statement that one MP observed this week had been “imprudently delivered with a fervour that suggested he had a bible in one hand and a shovel in the other” – and ever since, he has for one reason or another appeared to tip more and more of the government’s political eggs into the coal basket. It’s been a nightmare for the industry because Tony Abbott has now made coal a deeply political issue.

There has been all the hate showered on other forms of energy, particularly renewables and those unsightly wind turbines, as part of some binary division of the world divided into the saintly world of coal versus climate change believers.


The advocacy of coal and coal projects has continued even as the coal price has sunk and sunk further. It’s fine to be positive about big projects but, on the face of it, not entirely clear why you would not diversify your political risk portfolio just a little in the current market circumstances.

Specifically, staking so much political capital on the development of Adani’s $16.5 billion Carmichael mine in Central Queensland, when there are so many questions over whether it will go ahead seems even more high risk.

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