Those who oppose coal mining in the Hunter often argue we should be striving towards more economic diversity.  Of course we should, always. 

But let us not have it that we lack diversity, we don’t; retail, agriculture, manufacturing, thoroughbred breeding, viticulture, construction, accommodation and food services to name a few. 

Indeed, the retail, manufacturing and construction sectors all employ more than does mining.  Having said that, it’s important to note that many of our businesses rely heavily on the mining sector.  Indeed, according to the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, sixty percent of businesses in the Upper Hunter are dependent on coal mining.

So it is true that coal mining ads to our diversity.  Why would we want less of an industry that delivers high incomes to so many?  The only argument that could be mounted is to suggest the mining sector is sucking up too much of the workforce and denying other sectors employees.  While this has been true during short periods including the construction phase of the most recent mining boom, it is not generally true.

In any case, while we would all like the mining companies to do more, the mining sector provides a not insignificant amount of training locally.  The big mistake was for government not to invest more of the mining boom into skills training in areas common to both mining and other sectors.  We started doing so from 2007 but for almost thirteen years John Howard did just the opposite.

The collapse of coal prices has given us a taste of what the Hunter would be like without the mining sector.  Let’s hope last week’s speculation about worse to come proves unfounded!

The Harding Miller Foundation Scholarship Program provides practical support to lift the educational outcomes and career aspirations of high potential girls who are facing disadvantage.

The Scholarship is valued at over $3000 each year for two years and includes:
• Laptop with internet connection
• Access to online tutoring support
• Annual bursary for educational expenses

Do you know female students entering Year 9 who could achieve more with some extra support?

Information and applications forms for the Harding Miller Foundation Scholarship and many other scholarships for students in Australian Public Schools are now available on the Public Education Foundation website.

Applications will be accepted until 27 November 2015.

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To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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