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Agriculture and mining make comparatively little contribution to employment and the economy

To listen to the Coalition, one would think that mining and agriculture run this country but the reality is completely different.

According to the government’s 2016 Australian Industry Report, their combined contribution is less than 10% of GDP.

Services: 61.1%

Construction: 8.1%

Mining: 6.9%

Manufacturing: 6.0%

Agriculture: 2.2%

If we look at employment, you have to go a long way down the list before we get to agriculture or mining. According to the 2016 census, they, together, employ just over 4% of the labour force.

Health Care and Social Assistance 1,351,023

Retail Trade 1,053,819

Education and Training 925,893

Construction 911,057

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 775,985

Accommodation and Food Services 738,234

Public Administration and Safety 713,141

Manufacturing 683,688

Transport, Postal and Warehousing 499,485

Financial and Insurance Services 384,603

Administrative and Support Services 365,735

Wholesale trade 307,742

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 266,943

Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services 182,142

Information Media and Telecommunications 179,534

Mining 177,649

Arts and Recreation Services 176,659

Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services 115,767

Regardless of what Matt Canavan says, the government’s own report states that “The economy continues to transition away from resources.”

When the Coalition, to appease their clients, say we must provide subsidies and wind back our environmental protections and “red tape” for miners and farmers for the sake of economic growth and jobs, they are ignoring the facts.

So what’s new?


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  1. Miriam English

    Very interesting stats, Kaye.

    It’s a scandal that “Information Media and Telecommunications” and “Arts and Recreation Services” are not far greater employers. We are becoming a technologically and educationally stunted nation. We can thank the LNP in large part for that, but also Labor who introduced HECS and with their embrace of purist capitalism also helped to sell off our future.

    Our politicians need to be serving the Australian people using fact-based policy instead of serving a fictitious ideal using fantasy for policy.

  2. Miriam English

    Of course gerrymandering gives mining and agriculture disproportionate influence upon our politics.

    Well, strictly speaking, it isn’t gerrymandering so much as dividing the country into undemocratic electorates which give a few mining or farming companies or families voting power equal to millions of city folk. Gerrymandering is slightly different.

    CGP Grey explains how gerrymandering works

  3. LOVO

    Kaye, One wonders if’n the tax coming from the 177,659 mining employees is the only ‘boon’ we received from the ‘boom’….. 😞…..the rest got processed ‘off shore’ ….and no, not in Nauru or Manus 😑

  4. Aortic

    Ah but coal is good for humanity and onions can be used as a suppository of all wisdom. You cannot build a new domestic edifice in France by law unless you have solar roof panels. They exist all over Europe as do wind farms, but the LNP as ever must be beholden to their benefactors. Good stuff Kaye, I wonder what strident obfuscation the front bench would come up with to justify their case? Morrison probably still has that piece of coal hidden somewhere upon his person. Still I suppose his faith is keeping him strong, I guess. I see that Hillsong is the fastest growing church in Australia. I have met Brian Houstons offsider and all I can say, there are snake oil salesmen and there are snake oil salesmen.

  5. Matters Not


    one would think that mining and agriculture run this country but the reality is completely different

    Perhaps it all depends on how one constructs reality?

    (Great compilation of stats by the way. But enough of the praise.)

  6. Matters Not

    Miriam English re:

    Gerrymandering is slightly different.

    Perhaps it depends on the definition given to gerrymandering, And who says definitions don’t or can’t change over time? Try the definition of haircut as an example.

    I’m sure you appreciate that language evolves over time as do constructions of reality – including scientific ones.

  7. Miriam English

    Matters Not, yep, definitions change all the time. “Let” used to mean to impede, but now means the opposite, to facilitate. However definitions also matter as an agreed-upon common substrate for communication. We can see the problems different definitions can bring when people argue on something, but it turns out they actually agree on the facts, but disagree on the definitions. I’m not sure what your point is.

    One thing that bothers me is your suggestion that we construct different realities. This isn’t true. We can deceive ourselves to a greater or lesser degree as to what reality is, but what we believe has no effect on reality. Science doesn’t construct realities either. Science is merely a set of tools used to more accurately understand reality than we otherwise could, given our sensory and intellectual failings (for example our limited senses don’t detect electromagnetic radiation and sound outside narrow windows, and we are given to prejudices in drawing conclusions). Science and mathematics let us understand and verify things about reality that we otherwise could not. The reality is always there. Science and math let us approach closer and see it more accurately. Some things don’t require science or maths to absolutely accurately understand their reality. I walk around my place, passing through rooms, opening and closing doors, feeding the birds, my doggy friend, and myself, understanding it all perfectly accurately. Some other things are almost impossible to understand without science and maths (for example the operation of an inductive-capacitive tuned circuit, or the fact that non-mammalian animals see many more colors than we mammals do). Most things fall somewhere in between.

  8. iggy648

    Kaye Lee for QandA? It would be nice to have someone on there who knows the facts about stuff!

  9. johno

    Good article Kaye. The stats are telling. When chevron were sniffing around the great australian bight for some black gold the local communities and nature lovers were alarmed. An oil leak would be devastating. After a prolonged campaign by the public, chevron pulled out. Canavan put in his two cents worth re environmentalists halting progress, loss of jobs. How many jobs is Canavan talking about ??
    Unfortunately it is back on again with the Norwegian company Statoil.

  10. Barry Thompson.

    Those statistics really surprised me Kaye Lee. Goes to show what a good job the LNP propaganda unit is doing in the bullshit department.
    You have remarkable research skills.
    Keep the exposes coming.

  11. Barry Thompson.

    Those statistics really surprised me Kaye Lee. Goes to show what a good job the LNP propaganda unit is doing in the promulgation of bullshit.
    You have remarkable research skills. Keep the expose’s coming.

  12. townsvilleblog

    Yet another great article Kaye, I enjoy reading your pieces immensely.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Thanks guys, I enjoy having politically aware people to discuss things with.

  14. Frank Smith

    Thank You Kaye Lee for bringing the lies of Canavan and others to people’s attention with some facts. The problem is that, through the secret “Agreement”, the National Party tail wags the Coalition dog. In spite of being a quite minor Party, the Nationals are grossly over-represented in both numbers and influence in the Cabinet. Not only that, but they have insisted upon, and been granted by our weak Prime Minister, portfolios that maximize their capacity to pork-barrel and gerrymander. We saw that play out very clearly around the now disgraced Barnaby. We now see it maintained by the National Party with McCormack taking over Infrastructure and Transport, Littleproud in Agriculture and Water Resources (we have discussed the conflict of interests that involves in earlier articles), Canavan in Resources and Northern Australia and Gillespie assisting in Children and Families. All of these Nat Ministries provide great platforms for pork-barreling. And, yes, Miriam, Nat electorates involved are still compromised and maintained by the sort of gerrymandering that reached a peak for the Nats during Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s reign.

  15. Matters Not

    Yes Joh was in the business of gerrymandering, but let’s not forget that Labor started the rot.

    From 1910 to 1949, Queensland had a “one person, one vote, one value” electoral system, with a maximum variation of 30% from the Statewide average quota. But in 1949 the Australian Labor Party conducted a revision which varied the number of voters in each electorate according to their size and distance from Brisbane, the state capital in the far south-east of the huge state. Although difficulties in transport and communication were given as the reasons to reduce the size of remote and thinly-populated electorates, the effect was to give a huge advantage to the Labor Party, which at that time drew its voting strength from rural areas**, a consequence of the party’s formation in the outback Queensland town of Barcaldine half a century earlier.

    The newly elected Country Party MP for Nanango, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, spoke out against the redistribution, saying that it meant that “the majority will be ruled by the minority” and that the Labor government was telling the people “whether you like it or not, we will be the Government”.

    Something about rocks and glass houses. LOL. Further, Goss had the opportunity to return to one person, one vote, one value but squibbed it.

  16. guest

    Thank you, Kaye, for your revelations about relative worth. Mining and agriculture are regarded as being very important. Always have been in the history of Oz. It is a matter of status gained because of wealth created for some, and for the fact they are involved in export.

    As for definitions, Matters Not, in the case of haircuts – or agriculture and mining – they are not all the same, but we know what a haircut is, a mine or an agricultural activity.

    So it depends on how we interpret it, how we give it status. So some people almost worship coal and see it as essential, for their own reasons. Others despise it, and and have their reasons for doing so. The part played by science in all this will be crucial. For the Climate Change deniers, economics trumps science.

    See also how people interpret “simple” events in a game, such as a tackle in a game of football. Was it holding the man or holding the ball? A different view from a camera might change some opinions, but the rusted on who stick by their team will not always be convinced. Political bias is a powerful force.

    So we might think about how we interpret other events. Imagine a situation where the police shoot a dangerous person carrying a gun. The body is whisked away to prevent immediate protest or disturbance. I am reminded of what happened to Osama bin Laden – the different stories about what happened. A telling of that story could be described as a report, or an historical account. Told in fiction mode it might be crime story. If it is told like “Crime and Punishment” it is a literary classic.

    So, at this time of the year, we might ask what the story of Christ is. A witness report, history, a fiction, a literary classic, a religious truth?

    Is it a story about a man executed by the Romans, the body whisked away to prevent protest? Then people claimed to see him in the street?

    Or is it a story of how God/Son of God was crucified and buried but who rose again, later seen in the streets, and physically rose up through the clouds in the sky to sit in Heaven?

    It depends on what interpretation and with what perceptions or beliefs the story is told – whether one wants to give the story significant status or not.

    To question the religious interpretation given by religious people could be regarded as “blasphemy”. For others those events are a reason for just another holiday.

  17. Miriam English

    Matters Not, very interesting. I didn’t know the Labor party were the original culprits in making elections so unrepresentative here in QLD. Fascinating. Karma in action. (My use of the word is intended as humorous colloquialism, not mystical.)

    guest, yep, or the whole Jesus story could be seen as myth, reinvented several times, probably beginning maybe 3,500 years ago with Mithra (born of a virgin mother on December 25th and laid in a manger, was a teacher called “the shepherd” who had 12 disciples and performed miracles, he sacrificed his life for peace and rose to heaven afterward). Considering there is absolutely no record of Jesus during the entire first century, he either didn’t exist, or some peaceful, but deluded, small-time prophet had the earlier tales respun about him after the church had him killed.

  18. guest

    Thank you, Miriam. It is interesting to see what might be the origins of human thinking about how the world goes – and there are many visions, but we seem to think ours is the only one. So we have allegiances to particular religions and political doctrines.

    At present, Christians are concerned about the decline in their religion which they see as the basis of our society. Peter Craven, cultural commentator, is writing again about it today. He calls the Jesus story “the most comprehensive vision available to us” because it seems to cover things which concern us, such as death. and seems to offer a comforting solution.

    But when I look at what he offers as support for his promotion of the Christian religion, he refers to art produced by believers – poets, musicians, sculptors and the high drama of the Mass. But it is all confected by human activity, even the writing of the Bible. We are meant to see it all as a great mystery, but in fact it is mind-numbing to those who do not believe. If the physical resurrection of the dead is the great promise, then why do only two of the four Gospel writers actually describe Christ physically rising in the air after his resurrection, and where is this Heaven where he now sits? Too many unanswered questions for me to comprehend. It is a bit like adults still believing in Father Christmas. Or Coalition parliamentarians still believing coal is the way of the future.

    Faith believers can believe what they like, if it makes them happy, but they must realise that their faith, what they believe, is open question.

  19. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    Excellent work.

    I was wondering, while reading the % for manufacturing at 6%, whether the figure pre-car manufacturing would’ve made a great deal of difference. I suspect that our manufacturing sector had been steadily whittled away by the time Abbott/Turnbull sounded the death-knell for Australia’s ability to manufacturing cars. Interesting the same team are completely gung-ho about arms manufacturing. They want this vast and variable nation of Australia to provide guns and human services (waiting tables and servicing tourists) – interesting mix of goals and so limited as to be risible.

    Just a side note on arguing about who started what. If a political party shifts a little towards, well, something shifty like electoral boundaries or laissez-faire economies and an even shiftier party takes over – then no surprises when things get worse for the majority.

    Yes, Labor, started a number of things the LNP has taken to like a tick on a blood vein – and the point is?

    Well, yours truly, sees the point as being a binary, adversarial political system does not progress very fast, being a 2 steps forward, 3 steps back game which produces a great deal of wealth for very few people.

    Will we transition to a sustainable economy in time to deal with the full impact of climate change, polluted environments and finite resources? Not any time soon. I think we have to take the dark path before sufficient people in power realise this is a zero-sum game.

  20. Matters Not

    Miriam English re:

    your suggestion that we construct different realities. This isn’t true

    Try this link as a primer. Scroll down a bit.

    By the way, I wouldn’t put science and mathematics in (exactly) the same category. Scientist (normally) work under the assumption that any findings should always be regarded as tentative – subject to revision down the track – in no sense absolute truth. On the other hand, mathematicians proceed on the understanding that given certain assumptions their findings will always sustainable. Always true.

    Here’s what I consider when I think about science and ‘truth’. Be interested in your views.

  21. Kaye Lee

    That’s why I love maths. 🙂

  22. Miriam English

    Matters Not, that’s the second time today someone has (lazily) pointed me to a long page for me to read rather than make their own case. If I followed every page someone pointed me to I’d get nothing done. (Harquebus was the worst offender there. He’d point people to dozens of pages that often didn’t even support his argument, then became annoyed when people got wise and became reluctant to follow them.) Regardless, I did read the page you pointed to. It told me nothing new, nor gave any sensible argument to support the idea that people create their own realities. It merely said they do — oh well, that’s convincing.

    Saying that people create their own realities is sloppy use of language. It sounds cool, but is fundamentally wrong and misleading. Even worse, it leads to the kind of bullshit promoted by scammers like Deepak Chopra. I have a very dear friend who gets sucked in by this magical thinking and it pains me terribly.

    Kaye, 🙂 yes, there is something very seductive in the way maths can find certainty in our world of shades and ambiguities.

    I often feel sorry for poor Bertrand Russell who worked so hard to build a solid framework of maths and logic on which everything might stand, only to have Kurt Gödel come along and use a simple paradox to convince him it couldn’t be done. I wish I could go back in time and tell Bertrand that he was wrong to abandon it. Every engineer understands that those kinds of paradoxes are not errors, but are real, useful things. An oscillator has two stable positions, like the liar paradox. (“This statement is a lie.”) It switches endlessly back and forth between two unstable positions. I can’t help thinking Bertrand would have resolved the problem if he’d incorporated such unstable solutions into his mathematics instead of thinking they are errors.

  23. Miriam English

    Kaye, have you noticed that the numbers in percent of GDP don’t add up to 100%?

    Percent of GDP
    61.1% Services
    8.1% Construction
    6.9% Mining
    6.0% Manufacturing
    2.2% Agriculture

    I wonder where the missing 15.7% is.

  24. Kaye Lee

    That’s the other great thing about maths. Our errors teach us things. We shouldn’t fear making them because we learn from them. In maths, you can;t persist with an error. You realise you must take a different approach and fix your mistake. We don’t doggedly hang on to some ideology – we say well that didn’t work…and we start again. False assumptions are our enemy.

  25. Kaye Lee

    Miriam…yes….the employment figures aren’t 100% either. I left out the smaller contributors to GDP (as did the government report I quoted) and the categories in the census where not enough information was given to categorise employment.

  26. Matters Not

    Miriam English March 31, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    Point taken. I won’t trouble your construction of reality with links in the future.

    Sorry for pointing out Labor’s poor track record re gerrymandering in Queensland – given It apparently caused you to reconstruct your (historical) reality.

    Won’t happen again! Sorry for that link as well.

  27. Miriam English

    Matters Not, I don’t have a problem with links, per se. What annoyed me was sending me on a wild goose chase. I apologise for my intemperate response, I immediately felt a bit guilty for it. I was feeling very pushed for time and it annoyed me to feel it was being wasted by sending me to a page that didn’t prove anything but merely repeated your assertion.

    I was actually grateful for your info on Labor creating the gerrymandering in QLD. I was glad of the chance to repair my erroneous view of history. Please do point out my mistakes in future. I’m thankful for the opportunity to correct my flawed knowledge.

    With regard to you saying that people construct their own reality, it’s difficult for me to see what you get out of insisting the tail wags the dog. When a crazy person thinks they are chosen by a god who speaks to them, we know their mind is broken and it is not interpreting reality correctly. When I thought the gerrymandering of QLD was purely a Libs + (National) Country party creation I was mistaken and was able to fix that error to let my understanding of reality be more accurate.

    I know it sounds cute to say that a person constructs their own reality, but words matter. We know beliefs and conclusions can be wrong and not reflect reality to a greater or lesser degree.

    My friend, who I briefly mentioned earlier, actually believes the bullshit peddled by Deepak Chopra, that we actively construct reality and that our minds can influence the real world just merely by imagining something. These kinds of errors are important and can have dire real-world consequences.

    Decades ago I had a wonderful girlfriend who sadly would occasionally have schizophrenic breakdowns in which her interpretation of reality became badly distorted. To suggest that such beliefs have any kind of validity by calling it one of many possible realities is dangerous. Believing things that are not real can have truly terrible effects. Pandering to the viewpoint that lets people think they can choose a reality helps them deceive themselves.

    Saying that people construct their own reality isn’t just an innocuous way of saying people have beliefs. It justifies delusion by saying that it is just one of many possible realities, letting people more easily dismiss the real world and make such monumentally insane statements as “I prefer to believe in a god”, as if reality was some kind of smorgasbord from which we can choose what we like. It enables the fashionable disease of moral relativism by giving beliefs some kind of equivalence to the real world. But reality is independent of us, and our beliefs are only beliefs — there is not more than one reality.

  28. diannaart


    I stand in awe – at both your lucidity and patience with Matters Not, who prefers playing games more than constructive contributions (which is time wasted, given MN is capable of considered comments – and claiming to play devil’s advocate is often just another way of bullying).

    There is, indeed, only one reality, but an infinite number of interpretations. How well we navigate our own and the beliefs of others depends upon how well our beliefs mesh with facts. I may well claim the sun rises in the west, but to live my life in accordance with that belief?

  29. Matters Not

    ME, I wonder whether you think the chart you (faithfully) reproduced from the figures provided is a valid construction of reality? Given that most readers will – for all practical intents and purposes?

  30. Miriam English

    Matters Not… [sigh]. Why would you even ask that? Just had a brain fart? Or maybe that extra bottle of booze unmoored your judgement.

  31. Matters Not

    ME, perhaps you are projecting? Once again? … (Sigh.)

    As for the booze accusation – projecting again? (Sigh)

  32. Miriam English

    I don’t drink, or take any drugs… not even caffeine.

    Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions, but I know you’re not normally a stupid person. Alcohol makes people stupid, and you are being stupid now. Seems a pretty sensible guess. If not alcohol (or some other stupifier) then the brain fart is a good description.

  33. Matters Not

    Re: Perhaps I am jumping to conclusions. Indeed!

    It’s a very cheap shot. And I suspect that it might be a tendency you may have.

    Not that I want to jump to conclusions. Or perhaps, it’s just a brain fart you are having?

    The arrogance is … breath-taking.

  34. Miriam English

    Poor diddums.
    You know that stupidity I mentioned, that you normally don’t exhibit? It’s showing, big-time.

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