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Quarterly Essay 78: The Coal Curse by Judith Brett

Quarterly Essay 78: The Coal Curse by Judith Brett

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Resources, Climate and Australia’s Future

Australia is a wealthy nation with the economic profile of a developing country – heavy on raw materials, and low on innovation and skilled manufacturing. Once we rode on the sheep’s back for our overseas trade; today we rely on cartloads of coal and tankers of LNG. So must we double down on fossil fuels, now that COVID-19 has halted the flow of international students and tourists? Or is there a better way forward, which supports renewable energy and local manufacturing?

Judith Brett traces the unusual history of Australia’s economy and the “resource curse” that has shaped our politics. She shows how the mining industry learned to run fear campaigns, and how the Coalition became dominated by fossil-fuel interests to the exclusion of other voices. In this insightful essay about leadership, vision and history, she looks at the costs of Australia’s coal addiction and asks, where will we be if the world stops buying it?