Quarterly Essay 33

Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom

Guy Pearse

Release Date:
March 2009
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Australia’s response to climate change must truly baffle outsiders. Why do our leaders pretend that they are leading the world in the battle against global warming? When do environmental risks outweigh economic benefits? Why dig deeper when the rest of the world is looking for alternatives to coal?

This is an essay about “quarry vision,” the belief that Australia’s greatest asset is its mineral and energy resources – coal above all. How has this distorted our national politics and stymied action on climate change? In this powerful essay about the national interest, Guy Pearse dissects the Rudd government’s climate change response: from the Garnaut report to the silver bullet of “clean coal” and beyond. He exposes the shadowy world of the carbon lobbyists; how they think, operate and advance their agenda. He discusses the future of the coal industry and challenges the economic orthodoxy. Quarry vision, he argues, is a trap and a blind faith we can no longer afford.

“A generation ago, our leaders showed courage and vision in pushing for unilateral trade liberalisation – they knew it was good for Australia no matter how fast others acted. They were right to turn Australia’s economy outward, and the establishment they challenged was wrong. Today the generation that was right on trade liberalisation has much of it wrong on climate change. They now wear the establishment mantle, and it is their turn to be challenged.” Guy Pearse, Quarry Vision

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This issue also contains correspondence relating to the previous issue QE32 American Revolution by Kate Jennings. Correspondence relating to QE33 Quarry Vision will appear in the next issue.

About the Author

Guy Pearse is a former member of the Liberal Party and was a speechwriter for former environment minister Robert Hill. He has been an industry lobbyist, a consultant and a spin doctor. In 2007, after his research and concerns were dismissed by his political colleagues, he exposed the dirty politics behind Australia’s response to climate change on Four Corners and in his book, High & Dry: John Howard, Climate Change and the Selling of Australia’s Future.


Author Video

Guy Pearse in conversation with ABC Radio National's Peter Mares.