Mannkal Economic Education Foundation


Australian Mining Hall of Fame – A Lost Opportunity?

Ron Manners

6 December 2011

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The ownership of this project is inseparable with Australia’s Mining Industry.

If the industry accepts this challenge, the Mining Hall of Fame will now fulfil its vital role, particularly at this time when the industry is continually singled out for regular ‘beat-ups’.

The Mining Hall has a vital role in explaining the industry to the general public.

The Mining Hall being just one step away from the companies themselves can develop an educational degree of credibility.

One of the things that fascinates me about our mining industry is that we fanaticise that we have a great image amongst the general public and that some of us, like our politicians, feel that just a few perfunctory gestures and frequent use of the word ‘sustainability’ will buy sufficient respectability for us to stagger forward.

Our young people are very sceptical about such trivialities and they are hungry for heroes, on which they can base their aspirations – witness the Steve Jobs phenomenon.

We, as an industry, are not developing our own heroes and do not acknowledging them sufficiently.

Our industry is not developing its own narrative, and since Professor Geoffrey Blainey and legendary figures like Sir Arvi Parbo covered earlier generations of our industry, we are virtually without a ‘poet laureate’ or an ‘industry philosopher’ to give the bigger picture, far beyond our individual company presentations.

Our industry has created some great Generals and they are successfully running their companies.

However, we desperately need a ‘poet laureate’ if we are going to successfully defend our industry in this ongoing battle. (Someone like New Zealand’s Roger Kerr.)

Talking about battles and the need for a poet-philosopher brings to mind the American War of Independence where George Washington was battling the British (yes, this is relevant).

George Washington was in the frontline like our modern day C.E.O.s, but behind the scene was their Poet Laureate, Thomas Paine, producing his regular pamphlets called ‘Common Sense’.

Tom Paine’s words set the mood for public opinion and his words presented the American Colonists with an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of independence was still undecided.

Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that the common people understood.

The importance of Thomas Paine was later summed up by the words of another American Founding Father, John Adams, as follows:

‘Without the pen of, Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense, the sword of George Washington would have been raised in vain.’

Australia’s mining industry desperately needs a Thomas Paine, working with the Mining Hall of Fame, to clearly put the case for more mining and more prosperity for our nation and all of its people.

Many in the industry leave it to the politicians, by getting them to open their projects, feeling that it is the only way to get any T.V. coverage of the event.

I’m not the only one expressing these concerns.

Dr. Nikki Williams, recently speaking as the CEO of the NSW Minerals Council, told a conference in Wollongong:

“The Australian public has a conflicted relationship with the mining sector, which is at the forefront of debates ranging from the carbon tax to the nation’s two-speed economy.”
“We’re the darlings of the business pages, yet we’re painted as demons in the early general news,” she said.

“We help treasurers keep budgets healthy and give Australia the strength to stave off the threat of recession, yet our industry is a lightning rod for the most adversarial of political debates.”

Dr Williams said Australia was in the middle of one of the longest mining booms in the nation’s history.

“Yet we face multiple policies, regulatory and legislative challenges that might collectively render our sector a less attractive destination for international investment than countries such as Indonesia, Colombia or even Mongolia.” She warned.

Federal Governments will never speak highly of the mining industry and describe it as a creative, high technology industry, which develops its own people as no other industry does.

The Federal Government will never promote the “Mining” image as being creative as they would then never get away with adding yet another tax on top of the other taxes to a ‘creative industry’. However, they can, and will get away with more imposts as long as mining continues to be seen as an “exploitive industry”, which is exactly their political description of mining, for their own purposes.

Our Australian Mining Hall, through extensive use of social media, could explain how only 200 years ago 85% of the people on this planet lived on less than $1 per day. That was 85% and now it’s down to 20%, largely because of mining.

I know the power of social media as I run one of Australia’s best Facebook sites for economic and policy debate (4,500 friends) , with contributions from a remarkable range of international individuals, including two former Senior Advisors to President Reagan and the former Prime Minister of Estonia, plus a lot of equally surprising individuals.

So that’s what the Mining Hall should be doing for the industry, where it’s not really appropriate for each company to divert their own resources toward social media.

Australian mining needs to develop a narrative of it’s own, to explain mining’s role in increasing the well-being of billions of people, who are being lifted out of poverty.

Mining as an industry has been largely responsible for increasing the average human life span from 30 years of age (110 years ago) to 67 years of age today.

In Australia today there exists evidence that people remain wilfully ignorant about how wealth is created.

They take for granted that wealth simply “exists”, and they focus their attention on a so-called ‘fair’ way to divide it up, such as the more wasteful projects of which we are all aware.
As long as this absolute waste of resources goes unchallenged, which to my dismay appears to be the case, Canberra’s voracious appetite for further revenue to be extracted from the productive sector will continue.

If they actually understood the process of wealth creation they would encourage more mining so that they could receive more revenue, instead they are driving our industry offshore, to so many other countries where Australian capital and personnel are developing mines which will compete with our very own.

Witness the remarkable situation where our Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, is now acting as though he is the Foreign Minister for Africa, announcing all sorts of incentives for Australian companies to invest in African resources, whilst taxing us if we invest in our own country.

Tax the industry and the entrepreneurs beyond the point of endurance and the gold and other minerals stay in the ground, and investment and jobs leave on the next flight. Resources don’t benefit the world until somebody discovers them and then can profitably extract process and sell them.

The mining industry needs to do more to promote its socioeconomic benefits to the broader public. This enormous task is being carried on the backs of too few. This is one of the key roles for the Mining Hall.

Let me remind you of the constant battle being fought between the rapacious sector on one hand and the productive sector on the other hand.

Australia’s mining industry, with discipline could use the Australian Mining Hall as a key weapon, along with the Minerals Council of Australia, The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) and the various State Chambers, to form a comprehensive arsenal to ensure that our industry prospers under a clear set of rules, regulations and taxes.

Without such co-ordinated, defensive action, the current political regime will continue with its constant whims, threats and disincentives, all serving to take the industry’s eyes off the main focus of being creative and productive.

The Mining Hall was constructed and funded by the most remarkable and professional group of volunteers that I have ever had the privilege of working with, and it will be interesting to see if Australia’s mining industry accepts the challenge of developing the Mining Hall of Fame into an effective player in Australia’s ever expanding resource industry.

2 Responses to “Australian Mining Hall of Fame – A Lost Opportunity?”

  1. Cassandra Brennan says:

    I am devastated that this (I believe to be) short sighted decision has been taken by the board and will be working to do something to keep the Hall of Fame alive - even if in a different guise.

  2. Camille Tangney says:

    Hello Ron……….I agree with everything you have said. As an inaugural member of the The Australian Mining Hall of Fame I am shocked that this Icon has closed (supposedly in the short term) but to even think of moving a portion of it to Perth is ‘out of the equation’
    Camille Tangney