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Australians ‘no richer’ from mining boom

Most Australians feel no richer from the nation’s mining boom, and there is widespread concern the industry is propping up the broader economy, new research by SBS reveals.


The community’s often-conflicting attitudes towards mining were revealed in the national survey of about 1500 people conducted over November and December last year.

DIRTY BUSINESS – ‘HOW MINING MADE AUSTRALIA’ will air Sunday January 6th, 13th and 20th at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.

Strong opposition to foreign ownership of resource companies and the use of foreign workers were apparent in the report, ‘Australian Perceptions of the Mining Industry’.

Less certain were attitudes towards mining’s economic benefits.

Almost half of those surveyed believed the mining industry “saved Australia” during the Global Financial Crisis, while another 33 per cent said the boom had helped push up property prices.

However, 53 per cent of people felt “the mining boom had made no difference to my personal finances”, with 13 per cent of respondents reporting some financial benefit.

More broadly, only 10 per cent of Australians agreed that they or their family had benefited from the boom, with 57 per cent saying they had missed out.

The boom was also linked to a rising cost of living by 42 per cent of those surveyed.

Perception of the boom’s benefits was split along generational lines, with older people less likely to feel financially rewarded and more conscious of its effect on the cost of living.

Also revealed were fears that Australia was too dependent on mining for its economic strength, with 57 per cent of respondents “worried that … governments are too reliant” on revenue from the boom.

This was matched by the 54 per cent of Australians who felt mining was “propping up … the economy”.

Sentiment towards the Federal Government’s Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) was almost equally divided with 30 per cent approving of it, 29 per cent against.

Those in the anti-MRRT camp exactly matched the proportion of people who said government regulation of mining would influence their vote in this year’s Federal Election.

However, a sizeable proportion of voters didn’t have a strong stance on the tax, with 41 per cent of respondents either “neutral” or unsure where they stood on the issue.

There was concern over the industry’s influence on government – 43 per cent of people agree that mining had “too much influence” in Australian politics, just 12 per cent disagree.

Views on foreign ownership of mining were strong, with 68 per cent of people backing restrictions, but when the prospect of local job losses was raised, this dropped to 40 per cent.

Forty-four per cent opposed the hire of foreign workers by mining companies, with 21 per cent in favour.

Opinion was balanced on whether Australia was responsible for other countries’ use of exported minerals (35 per cent disagree, 32 per cent agree), and the sale of uranium overseas (30 per cent agree, 29 per cent disagree).

Fifteen per cent of people were “very concerned” about the sale of minerals to China.

About half of Australians believed the mining boom would be over within five years.