Big coal buries itself on Twitter


Earlier this week I noted that a great coal whinge had begun in the mainstream media and now it is clear why. From Crikey:

When the brains behind the Minerals Council launched an advertising campaign to defeat Labor’s mining tax, they nailed it. The tax was gutted, and the PM who dared propose it — Kevin Rudd — lost his job. Miners spent $22 million on the ads and saved billions in tax they never had to pay.

Now the Minerals Council has a new multimillion-dollar ad campaign, this one to defend the coal industry. But “Australians for Coal” doesn’t seem destined for the success of the anti-Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) campaign. This campaign seems to be a dud.

Launched on Monday because coal is “under attack from powerful groups determined to shut the industry”, the PR campaign includes a slick pro-coal website and TV ads (they’ll come later). Its dedicated Twitter handle turned into a social media farce within hours, and its campaign to get the public to email conservationists seems to have failed.

So what’s the campaign aimed at? The federal Coalition government is already on coal’s side — there’s little risk of an RSPT-style tax there. Rather, it seems to be aimed at pressuring state governments (and courts) to approve coal developments, and encouraging investment funds and super funds to stick with coal despite conservationists’ complaints.

But the response has not gone so well, according to Business Spectator:

As the group explained to The Australian, its Australians For Coal campaign is a three-pronged assault that hopes to use TV advertising, political lobbying and social media to sway public opinion.

The main focus of this campaign – as opposed to previous lobbying attempts from the Minerals Council (like the mining tax campaign) – was the group’s focus on social media. It wanted to provide a counterpoint to the Greens’ influence and reach on the Twittersphere.

The campaign launched yesterday and it received a storm of attention. As the graph below shows, the hashtag #AustraliansForCoal exploded on Twitter. So the campaign worked, right? Well, no.

…Few users actually supported the campaign. Instead the hashtag became a platform for everyone on the Twittersphere to vent their frustrations at the sector.


Another triumph for new media versus the withering whore.

About the author
David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal. He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.