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Santa's coal, country protest and the patchwork economy

By Jim Belshaw - posted Monday, 12 December 2011

When Graham Young asked me to contribute to the December Christmas theme, my mind went instantly blank.

If Santa were handing out national punishments and awards, where would Australia rate indeed!?

Children have always been fascinated by the logistics involved in Santa's capacity to deliver presents. How, they wonder, can he and a few reindeer manage this feat? This has been the stuff of many movies.


There is a darker side to Santa that's not often recognized.

In some Christmas traditions, bad children may receive something instead of a present. And what do they get? A bag of coal!

Now here is the hidden answer to a question no-one asks. Where does Australia's coal really go?

Of course some goes to China, but a fair bit goes into the Santa distribution system. Here is the real answer to Australia's burgeoning mines! Perhaps it's time to return some of that coal to Australia, thus helping the Greens fulfills some of their most deeply held aspirations.

I was going to start by awarding a bag of coal to Julia Gillard's script writers. I say script writers advisedly, for she clearly does not have any speech writers. Then I thought, hang on a minute. Where would we all be without that mangled English? It's a key part of the reality television that marks current Australian politics. So perhaps I have to give a present instead.

In its place, I want to award a bag of coal to Australians as a whole for a degree of smug complacency.


Australian macroeconomic management has been reasonably good by global standards. However, I don't think that anybody would deny that we have been lucky because we have things to dig up, things that we can grow.

Of course, this isn't new.

Wool gave the Australian colonies their initial start because it was a high value product that could support transport costs from distant locations. Then we found gold and other minerals.

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About the Author

Jim Belshaw is an economist and historian by training. He worked as a senior public servant before moving to the private sector as a manager, strategic consultant and free lance researcher and social commentator. He blogs at Personal Reflections.

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