It's the number one argument in favour of allowing Indian mining company Adani to build a huge coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef: the project will "create 10,000 jobs".
Everyone says it. Adani says it. The PM says it. The deputy PM says it. The resources minister says it. The Queensland Labor government says it. Outspoken federal Queensland backbencher George Christensen says it.
The number is flung around so often it's become accepted as fact. Politicians say it's worth the risk of building a mine that will produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year and drastically increase global greenhouse gas emissions because, y'know, jobs and growth.
Adani wants Australian taxpayers to loan it $900 million via the federal government so it can build a rail line from the mine to the coal terminal. The success of that request relies on the claim that the mine will create 10,000 jobs, so this is kind of important.
The only problem is, it's probably not true. The actual average number of jobs the mine will create is 1,464.
And we know that because Adani's own expert said so in court, under oath.
"Over the life of the Project it is projected that on average around 1,464 employee
years of full time equivalent direct and indirect jobs will be created," former Reserve Bank economist Jerome Fahrer said in his submission to the Queensland Land Court in 2015.
Fahrer was also critical of previous modelling done by another firm, which used a different method to arrive at the figure of 10,000 jobs. He described the assumptions made in the modelling "extreme and unrealistic".
Speaking to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday, Fahrer stood by his modelling, while acknowledging that it accounted only for the mine and associated rail line, and not the number of jobs that would be created at the Point Abbot Coal Terminal – where the coal will be transported before being shipped to India.
Even by Adani's estimates, the Abbot Point terminal will only create 2133 jobs – not even close to enough to make up the shortfall between the two figures.
Fahrer said the key difference in the figures was the assumption that the Adani mine would create new jobs, rather than simply transferring jobs from elsewhere around Australia.
"While the mine will create jobs directly and indirectly... those jobs will be drawn from other industries. So the net number of jobs created is quite small," he said.
Director of research at The Australia Institute Rod Campbell told BuzzFeed News the "10,000 jobs" figure was derived from an assumption that there is a "ghost workforce" simply waiting for a mine project to come along and employ them.
"It assumes that no one going into that project has a job already – that everyone there is a new person, and they go and buy their pies at new pie shops, and get their hair cut at new salons, and those salons buy their scissors that wouldn’t have been bought anyway," he said.
"[Fahrer's] model realises that when you start a new mine, most of those people will come from other projects, and not from the unemployment line."
He said the larger figure persisted due to the laziness of journalists and politicians.
"Because [Adani] knew that their 10,000 jobs figure wouldn’t hold up in court, they ditched it," he said. "But they also know that Australian politicians – like our PM – are much more likely to accept their original numbers.
"It’s fun to lie to journalists, but lying to a judge is a crime."
An Adani spokesperson stood by the 10,000 jobs claim.
"The three projects – Abbot Point Port, North Galilee Basin Rail and the Carmichael mine – [are] estimated to provide more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs across the life of the projects," the spokesperson said.
"Some other figures were part of a court process that was looking only at one phase of the mine alone, rather than all three projects across their life. Of course, activists try to suggest they are in conflict when they aren't. We use the official documentation using modelling that is typically used for such projects."
On Wednesday morning Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten hardened his opposition to the $900 million loan, saying the Adani mine must "stand on its own two feet".
"If it's a good deal, then why does the taxpayer have to be the person who's underwriting a billion dollar loan?" he asked reporters in Queensland.
"I want Adani to succeed but it's got to stand on its own merits. The Australian taxpayer should not be an ATM for Indian coal mining companies."
Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Rob Stott at email@example.com.
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