The mining industry has convinced Australians the sector employs nine times more workers and accounts for three times as much economic activity as it actually does, and that it is 30 per cent more Australian-owned than in reality, a report has found.
The Mining the Truth report by left-wing think tank the Australia Institute, to be released in Sydney today, is likely to further anger the mining industry and those living in boom states WA and Queensland, many of whom believe they are the target of populist government policies, such as mining and carbon taxes, and are being demonised by those in economically struggling NSW and Victoria.
The booming mining sector has resulted in a soaring Australian dollar, which has affected other industries, such as manufacturing and tourism. But in an attempt to counter the criticism and talk up structural changes occurring in Australia's economy, miners say they already pay high taxes and are investing billions of dollars in their local operations, and not just funnelling windfall profits offshore.
The TAI report makes several damning assertions, including that a successful campaign of spin by the mining industry had portrayed the sector in an overly favourable light. The spin campaign against the resource super profits tax also "resulted in a much less effective, and much less equitable, mining tax (the minerals resource rent tax) being negotiated".
"The dividend of the $22 million advertising campaign for the mining industry was, therefore, more than $160 billion (the difference in RSPT and MRRT obligations)," TAI claimed.
It further claimed the mining sector remained a small employer only and if other industries used the same multiplier mechanism to calculate indirect jobs created, "the total number of jobs in the economy would be more than 30 million - around three times the size of the Australian labour market".
The sector's claim that households benefited from rising share prices was also not true because direct share ownership was limited while an average superannuation fund only had minimal exposure to Australian mining stocks.
TAI surveyed 1370 people and found their perceptions about the mining industry's employment and economic impact and its level of foreign ownership were far more favourable than official data stated.
WA's mining industry is expected to take umbrage. The Chamber of Minerals and Energy says WA's resources sector directly employs about 90,000 people and indirectly a further 300,000. It is also the biggest private employer of Aboriginals.