By Connor Pound
Published 22/02/2017

Although the Greens have not a sliver of a chance of ever actually implementing it, their coal policy may be the most crippling proposal Australia has ever seen.

A certain portion of the population supports it resolutely; their loyalty lies with the earth. But for those who wish for a more balanced future, the direction the Greens want to head should be scorned.

The problem starts with a simple promise made in the Greens’ policies – “The prohibition of both new coal mines and the expansion of existing mines.”

Now this may seem like an enlightened approach to the issue of global warming and the wording might even trick you into thinking it’s a fair stance, after all, it isn’t even calling for a hasty closure of coal mines. But the devil is in the details, and although the Greens’ policy platform is both vague and confused, there are details.

In their economic analysis titled “Costing of The Greens’ Economic Policies: Mining”, economists Sinclair Davidson and Ashton de Silvaout respond to the promise by pointing out a simple fact: “A mine that cannot expand cannot long survive as currently mined minerals must be quickly exhausted.”

Although the aforementioned policy is vague, it is also a very carefully, consciously worded political statement. It hides the fact that, in the name of ideology, the Greens are ready to dash Australia’s economy on the rocks by arresting the future of the coal industry.

And for the foreseeable future, the fortunes of Australia will rely on the economy performing more or less since like it has since the 2000’s, so it’s impractical to just hope to cut coal out of it. Leaving the coal industry to die from a thousand cuts by neglecting a mines reliance on “expansions” will leave Australia with a nice big black hole in, well, everything. Although it may seem a long time ago, the economy hasn’t developed much since coal and iron dragged it through the GFC recession-free.

If the Greens’ policy were to be followed, Davidson’s and de Silva’s study showed that, using 2011 figures, Australia’s GDP would contract by somewhere between 29 and 36 billion dollars.

Contributing to and exacerbating this massive financial dent is the subsequent job losses. Using the conclusions reached by the two economists, about 281,989 (2014 figures) jobs would be lost, with the majority of them being spread throughout reliant industries.

With this would come an enormous increase in welfare payments and the loss of federal revenue received through corporate tax, which the analysis suggests would leave the government  clambering to fill $6 billion hole in the budget.

It’s not wrong to be an environmentalist, the world certainly needs it, but it seems to me that the Greens, and to some extent Labor, need to be proud of their new environment-before-people identity if wish to lead Australia down that path.

They simply cannot be the party of the left, which has always held the worker’s trust, whilst forcing that many people out of jobs irrevocably. Arrogantly progressive, yes, but not a party of the people. Such a policy would weigh heavily on average Australian’s shoulders and hardly effect the world’s emissions trajectory, so why rush into it?

To make things worse, the Greens certainly haven’t put forward any respectable plan to combat the inevitable economic devastation. There is talk of mine refurbishment programs, but the effort would be vertically and horizontally inadequate.

Although renewal energy is an inevitable feature of the future economy, at the moment it is unrealistic to herald it a coal-killer. It will bring jobs and money of course, but not nearly enough to weather the inescapable destitution.

By all means strip the mining mega-companies of any subsidies, that is long overdue, to allow renewables a chance to take their place, but don’t let ideology beset the country with economy turmoil.

(image source: Max Phillips)

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