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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 8994


Senator MARK BISHOP (Western Australia) (14:32): My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline to the Senate the benefits to the Australian economy of ensuring a fairer return on profits from Australia's resources? What support is there for such a policy approach?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:32): I thank the senator for the question and acknowledge that today we have seen public statements in support of this policy approach from the member for New England, the member for Lyne and the member for Denison. We welcome their support for this reform, which is about sharing the benefits of the mining boom.

This really is one of those issues that demonstrates the difference in philosophy and priority between this side of the parliament and that side of the parliament. On this side we stand for ensuring all Australians get a fair share from the mining boom in order to spread the benefits and the opportunities. Those on the other side stand for higher profits for mining companies and less tax being paid by miners—that is their position. We want less tax being paid by companies and small business. We want superannuation to be increased and we want spending and investment in infrastructure. This is why more and more people understand that it is important for this legislation to pass.

In recent weeks it has also become clear that it is gradually dawning on members of the opposition that it might be a good idea to support this policy. It has finally dawned on some members of the opposition that their shadow Treasurer has led them up a fiscal dead-end, and the only way they can get out of it is to make $70 billion worth of cuts to health and education, wind back the pension increases, wind back the disability support pension increases and wind back the increases to the family tax benefit. Those on the other side are starting to realise what is happening. As one unidentified coalition member said, 'Joe needs the money.'

Senator MARK BISHOP (Western Australia) (14:34): Mr President, I have a supplementary question for Minister Wong. Can the minister outline to the Senate the importance of having a balanced package of reforms to the taxation of mineral resources, and is the minister considering any alternative approaches?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:34): It is important to have a sensible approach to managing this policy area and to using the revenue sourced from the tax to ensure we can cut tax for small business to boost superannuation and to fund much-needed infrastructure. I am also asked about alternatives, and we have certainly seen some on display from the coalition backbench, including the following:

One Liberal, however, suggested the Coalition should support such amendments, then pass the tax to ensure the large minerals companies … paid virtually all of it.

The MP, who did not want to be identified, said public sentiment had swung behind the tax and the Coalition needed the revenue … The MP claimed this was a growing view within the Coalition.

Who is it, Mr President? Is it Senator Sinodinos? Is he finally inserting some sanity into the coalition economic team? Is it Senator Sinodinos— (Time expired)

Senator MARK BISHOP (Western Australia) (14:36): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question for the minister. Can the minister outline to the Senate the fiscal implications of supporting elements of the mineral resources rent tax package, such as the superannuation guarantee increase, without support for the tax itself?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:36): It is a very good question. You get revenue coming in one side and you pay it out on the other. However, if you are Mr Abbott or Mr Hockey, you just pay it out—you do not worry about the fact that you have no revenue. Meanwhile, what you have not told your backbench is, 'We're actually making the $70 billion hole bigger and we're starting to get a little worried, because by the next election there'll be a whole bunch of cuts to health, to hospitals, to social security and to defence that we're going to have to make because we keep spending money we haven't got.' What we see is Mr Robb excluded from coalition economic meetings. What we see now is coalition backbenchers starting to realise they are spending money they have not got and it is all going to come home to roost.