Mining invades the ABC

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 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.

Houses and Holes


  1. But F E (Elementary symbol for Iron) assured me that this was just her initials. You know, short for Felicity, which is not even her initials, there should not be a gap. (Oh my god too funny).

    As far as this is concerned the conclusion drawn yesterday on this issue is that the LNP no longer five a flying fark. They know they can not win the next election, they know it is done and dusted and have to make as much hay as they can while the sun shines.

    The article yesterday on Dutton as the interim PM caused a HUGE stir. And I suspect this is what is happening.

    The articles and comments left by Original John one of the most connected and informed China commentators on this blog need to be taken into more serious consideration. $250 Billion in Chinese capital outflows halted in the last 8 months has SERIOUS implications for Australian construction – and they know it.

    The reality is that the LNP are going down in flames – HARD – and no one is putting the pressure on.

    I can’t see how the LNP are surviving installing a Rupert Murdoch lacky as the head of the ABC and then the head of the AMC on the board – absolutely mind blowing.

  2. Pfft, Guthrie’s toast. The ABC is basically a 90 year old cult…it’s chewed up and spat out hairier balls than hers

  3. Mining BoganMEMBER

    C’mon, what’s it matter anymore? Everything Aunty these days is written spoken authorised by St Mal/IPA.

    ABC died the day Red Kerry handed the keys over.

    • So true ! ABC & SBS are just total propaganda outlets parroting the MSM World View. What a waste.
      What a disappointment.

  4. Bravo! Any steps to restore balance to the ABC are much welcomed. Board members themselves are quite a diverse group, so Vanessa’s appointment is a smooth fit. Her managerial expertise, her thorough understanding of an important and complex sector such as mining, her refreshing occasionally outspoken outlook, her commitment to calling it as she see it – all much needed at OurABC.

    Much of what passes for political comment at the ABC is exactly the kind of keyboard warrior social activist stuff that needs a sharp eye and sharper tongue to dispel. An organisation where the majority of its staff vote Green might be expected at an artisanal beer handcut chips and macrame get-up in inner Melbourne, but when that organisation is the national broadcaster, very close attention must be paid to the quality and particularly the slant of its political and economic commentary (for that is what it is).

    This is the kind of virtue signalling I can get on board with.

    • Hi 3d.
      Will you be working for the ABC, writing the news reports?
      Or, will you all just share the same set of notes and individually riff upon it?