The mouse that roars: Coal in the Queensland economy

by Rod Campbell

Queensland’s economy is based on service industries. Service industries employ nearly three quarters of the Queensland workforce and make up two thirds of economic output.

99 per cent of Queenslanders do not work in the coal industry.

96 per cent of Queensland government revenue does not come from coal royalties.

93 per cent of Queensland’s gross state product does not come from coal production.

Despite this, Queensland’s leaders regularly exaggerate the role of coal in Queensland:

We are in the coal business. If you want decent hospitals, schools and police on the beat we all need to understand that.

Campbell Newman, current Queensland Premier, Liberal-National Party

[Proposals to] not approve any further coalmines [are]… just simply preposterous, they would spell economic and social catastrophe for Queensland and the national economy…

Anna Bligh, former Queensland Premier, Labor Party

We like to romanticise the complexities and sinews of our economy but we really have a very simple business plan – we survive on the charges we raise to allow people to dig up black rocks and red rocks: coal and iron ore.

Barnaby Joyce, former Queensland senator, National Party

The exaggerated claims made by political leaders, based on coal industry public relations campaigns, have resulted in a public perception of the coal industry that is unrelated to economic reality. Polling conducted for this report shows that Queenslanders think the coal industry:

  • Employs ten times more people than it really does; and
  • Contributes five times as much revenue to the state budget than it does.

Despite the relatively small size of the coal industry, it is clearly able to make a lot of noise. In the Queensland economy, it is the mouse that roars.

This report provides the Queensland public with a view of the coal industry in its wider economic context, and that in so doing allow for public opinion and decision making in the state to be based on empirical data rather than on political impressions.

Full report