Revelations yesterday that the NSW government spent close to $1 billion on supporting the coal, gas and oil industries were not lost on Lock the Tweed’s Michael McNamara.
Yesterday the Australia Institute released a paper entitled ‘Mining the age of entitlement’. The investigation into state government support for the industries showed assistance to the mineral and fossil fuel industries appears substantial, ‘even when compared to big budget items, such as health, education and law and order.’
The paper detailed the value of state revenue that would otherwise have been available for increased vital public services – for example, more teachers, nurses and police.
‘In 2013-14 Queensland is planning on spending $1.5 billion on industry assistance, almost 60 per cent of what it will receive in royalties,’ the paper declared.
In New South Wales the amount was smaller, $872 million, but still substantial in the context of our state’s lower mining revenues.
Mr McNamara did a few sums to see what that kind of money could do for our region.
He extrapolated from figures published in local media to come up with these results.
Affordable housing: ‘The money could have built more than 3,800 two-bedroom units which could have had a big impact on levels of homelessness,’ he said.
Rooftop solar: ‘Three kilowatt systems could be installed on more than 167,000 houses reducing power bills for ordinary people.’
NBN rollout: ‘You could provide super-fast broadband for the whole of the northern rivers creating new employment opportunities for this amount of money,’ he said.
‘All of these options would have provided payback to the community rather than sending profits overseas.
‘Not only would the money have created far more jobs than mining ever has or ever will, it would have addressed very pressing social and political issues.
Alternatively, Mr McNamara said he would have been happy to see the money directed to research and development in renewable energy.
‘It is time the NSW state government put the interests of NSW residents ahead of the interests of overseas shareholders’ Mr McNamara added.
The paper says there may be even more ‘hidden’ funding going to fossil fuel industries that it wasn’t able to unravel from the budget documents.
‘Mining the state budgets for details on state subsidies to the mineral and fossil fuels industry was a lengthy process,’ the paper said, largely because Treasury documents do not easily identify the industry as a recipient.
‘It is not surprising, then, that the scale of state subsidies to some of Australia’s biggest, most profitable industries has thus far remained unearthed,’ the paper acknowledges.