We’ve all heard the stories – whether they’re true or not – about what the result of the mining tax will be. Job cuts, uncertainty in the market, the destruction of families and surely one in there somewhere mentions something about total annihilation of the country.
Part of what the big mining companies are saying is true – this tax will hurt industry. Perhaps more so the pockets of the heads of the companies, but regardless, the companies will wind back their operations to hopefully avoid paying the tax altogether – or at least lessen the amount paid. Not a great move considering, if the critics and the industry itself are to be believed, it’s what is holding Australia in turbulent times with the rest of the world’s economies.
It is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that is one of the backbones of our economy. Putting more tax on it can’t end well, no matter the scenario. However, whilst questions still hang over how this is going to be dolled out, and whom the money is going to go to, there is a better theory about who it should go to, and how it should be used. It’s plain, simple and easy, and it reinvests in this country’s future. In fact, it’s so simple that I’m not too sure why no one has yet mentioned it.
Let’s say, for example, that Clive Palmer is going to be taxed $1 billion. The government and tax office can say to him, that even though this is the new mining tax, there is a way out of it. Him and his company take the billion, and put it into renewable energy research and development. This would apply to the other big miners as well. Not only that, but him, and the other mining magnates are then charged with, and allowed to, develop, research and produce what would (hopefully) lead into the start of the renewable energy sector in Australia. This would allow us to compete with China and probably wind up beating them at their own game – particularly in solar energy where China are now considered one of the world leaders in the production of ways to harness this renewable energy source.
So, we have six years to get the magnates on side, build a new industry, and start pumping out the best solar panels in the world. Can we do it? I don’t see why not.
But some would undoubtedly argue that as more and more people switch to reliable solar energy, coal is needed less. Therefore, with less coal for fuel, less production is needed. The flow on effect is that people are laid off from working at the mines, which would cause concern and instability for the job market. However, the people in the mines could be retrained to work in the production of these panels and turbines, so they don’t lose jobs. Instead, they keep on working for the same company – BHP, Rio Tinto, whoever – and wind up working in a different sector of the company than they were before – like an internal transfer.
Now, let’s look at the raw numbers. The coal industry is worth $78 billion a year to the country (or 5.7 per cent of Australia’s GDP). If you were wondering, that’s a lot of money – seventy-eight thousand million dollars – which is certainly more money than most of us would see, let alone make in a lifetime. But the potential for the renewable energy market worldwide by 2015? $612 billion, according to Markets and Markets research from the USA. So even if the Australian industry only saw 15 per cent of that, that’s covering the losses made by the industry by cutting coal exports, country-wide and more. And, that’s assuming that a staged phased out scheme wasn’t in place – but rather a direct swap of industries.
So, to put it simply: the magnates would help fund a completely new industry in Australia that would allow us to sell this product to the rest of the world as it switches to clean energy, including China and the USA – the two biggest polluters on Earth according to the United Nations Statistics Division. Keep in mind these countries have also collected data (along with India, the fourth biggest polluter) via their energy departments that suggests solar power will be cheaper than fossil fuel power by 2018-2020. That’s only six years from now.
How long does it take to build an industry like this? Well, it took the Chinese only four years to go from nothing in 2002, to over a million panels in 2006, to 50 million a year in 2010. Why? Because building factories is cheaper and faster in China. But with the backing of the mining companies, cost shouldn’t be an issue any more, only time. But even if it took six years for the Australian market to come online, that’s still within the 2018-2020 estimates for the afore mentioned parity moment.
So, we have six years to get the magnates on side, build a new industry, and start pumping out the best solar panels in the world. Can we do it? I don’t see why not. And for the doubters, I’d like to leave you with some inspirational words I’ve got hanging on my wall:
That it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That maybe it couldn’t
But he wouldn’t say it wouldn’t
At least not until he had tried.