From Domainfax comes another really stupid decision from the Do-nothing government:
The Turnbull government has overruled an independent selection panel to appoint the chairwoman of the Minerals Council to the ABC board.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said Vanessa Guthrie has the “requisite skills” to be on the board, despite not making the final list of recommendations put forward by the Nomination Panel for ABC and SBS Board Appointments.
The five-year appointment comes amid heated political debate about the role of fossil fuels and renewable energy in Australia, and follows government criticism of the public broadcaster’s coverage of coal mining and energy security.
The Perth-based Dr Guthrie has more than 30 years of experience in the mining and resources industries, holding a variety of senior executive roles at Alcoa, Woodside Energy and Goldfields Limited.
She was WA’s first female mine manager and eventually rose to the rank of managing director and chief executive officer of Toro Energy, a job she left last year. She is the first female chair of the Minerals Council, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the land.
How will the polity read this, fellas. Sheesh.
A little background, from the AFR previously:
Vanessa Guthrie makes a quick apology. She’s 15 minutes late and in an instant I’m remorseful.
Guthrie, the first woman to chair powerful industry lobby group Minerals Council of Australia, had suggested we catch up for lunch at a restaurant opposite her West Perth office.
…As the head of the Minerals Council of Australia, Guthrie must manage the diverse group stretching from iron ore to uranium to precious metals to coal. They have different agendas and different ways of operating. But it doesn’t stop the entire sector coming under fire when one section of it is taking the heat.
Take east coast coal for instance. “It is severely under attack from social activism. It needs all the help it can get. But it means that the rest of the minerals industry gets somewhat tarnished by the coal debate and I think unfairly,” Guthrie says. “I think coal is under attack unfairly so, even though I am a very strong advocate of clean energy and renewables, but coal has a role as does uranium and nuclear power.”
She is concerned about a growing wave of “social activism” that wants to stop development – from mining to construction to infrastructure. She’s annoyed because she argues if most Australians assessed their personal wealth, most of us would have generated at least some of it from the mining sector.
I ask her if she feels the anti-mining activists are a little like vegans who wear leather shoes? She smiles and nods.
“Every social activist uses a mobile phone and tweets. Where do you think a mobile phone comes from?” she asks. “Sixty-one minerals are in a mobile phone. Sixty-one different elements that the world mines to produce mobile phones are in there. Without mining you wouldn’t have an iPhone. And how do you think it gets powered?”
She is frustrated that from behind a keyboard false claims can be made and assumed by many as truth.
“Most people go and get their information from Twitter or Facebook today and once it’s been tweeted it’s the truth apparently,” she says. “Somebody tweets that we at Toro are polluting rivers and killing babies, well there is nothing I can do about it. The fact that things get tweeted with no integrity, no facts, no research behind them frustrates me.”
Social media is perhaps helping fuel a worrying trend for populist politics.
She’s annoyed the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has reneged on plans to change the GST distribution that is woefully unfair, saying he’s playing populist politics. So too, she says, is Nationals WA leader Brendon Grylls over his plans to slug BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto with higher taxes.
“The state’s economy and people’s futures are really being played out in populist politics on all sides. Grylls’ plan doesn’t fix the problem because it causes the GST to get worse!”
Partly true. Roughly half the revenue would remain in WA. And what is so wrong about WA collecting a more reasonable share of iron ore royalty so the entire nation can benefit, hmm? Pilbara mining margins are currently above 200%. Those are preposterous private profits for a non-renewing and publicly owned resource. The big miners are radically under-taxed.
Then again, I suppose MB is a “key board warrior” of sorts. Though I like steak and wear a nice suit when it is appropriate.
The post-truth most apparent here is not the rise of internet crusaders, it is the proliferation of corporate propaganda creating false binaries for its own benefit. We don’t know if the Minerals Council is directly behind MB’s own permanent set of mining astroturfers, but we know that they most certainly exist. Likewise, co-ordinated mining public relations campaigns aimed at changing policy have done far more damage to Australian national interest than a few online hippies have ever managed. I don’t recall the latter ever successfully toppling a prime minister so they could pay less tax.
Whether that kind of influence should let loose in the ABC board I’ll let you guys decide. Mad climate change skeptic Morris Newman was chairman for a long time and made no dent on the culture so it’s not panic stations for anyone.
As you discuss it, know that the comments of FE are very likely the paid-for views of Vanessa Guthrie.