Originally published in The Conversation on September 5, 2011

One of the most interesting features of the mining boom is the way that it is opening up old, and unresolved, political and policy debates in Australia. Do we trust that the benefits to the small group of people directly involved in the mining industry will “trickle down” to the rest of us? Should governments protect employment-intensive industries? Or should we trust that free trade and market forces will do a good job of allocating our resources for us? The current mining boom not only raises all of those questions but also puts pressure on our political leaders to actually answer them. While the Gillard Government’s reluctance to come clean on such issues is a little less visible than Tony Abbott’s willingness to boldly walk both sides of the free market-protectionism street, both parties are suffering from the same philosophical and political dilemmas.

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