A report released today by The Australia Institute reveals New Hope Coal’s spending on advertising and astroturfing for its controversial New Acland mine expansion.
The mine in Queensland’s Darling Downs agricultural region has been fought by local farmers for a decade due to concerns over water and social impacts. The local community won an epic court battle against New Hope in 2017, but last week Queensland’s Supreme Court kept the mine’s chances of approval alive.
The report shows that New Hope Coal spent around $1.2 million on advertising in the last year, as well as ‘astroturf’ social media accounts designed to give the impression of grassroots community support.
“New Hope Coal turned the town of Acland into a ghost town. They’ve shown serious chutzpah to then create a social media campaign called Save Regional Towns,” said Dr. Cameron Murray, Australia Institute Senior Economist.
“Both the Save Regional Towns website and the Friends of New Acland Mine Facebook page were set up by employees of New Hope.
“Hopefully Queensland’s decision makers are smart enough to realise that a company that has to set up its own ‘friends-of’ page probably doesn’t have many friends.
“New Hope’s only real friends are the lobbyists at the Queensland Resource Council. They keep pushing the claim that 3,000 jobs are at risk, while conveniently ignoring New Hope’s own evidence in court that they employ 281 people.
“New Hope’s $1.2 million worth of advertising is not aimed at getting their customers to buy more coal – all their customers are overseas and not watching TV in regional Queensland.
“These ads are aimed at influencing public policy decisions. Economists call this ‘rent seeking’ – attempting to gain advantage by political influence rather than selling better goods and services.
“The New Acland mine poses a serious risk to water resources and agriculture on the Darling Downs. New Hope should respect the umpire’s decision and abandon plans for expanding the mine,” said Dr. Murray.