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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13408


Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (23:49): I would like to thank all members who have contributed to this debate on all of these bills. Today the Gillard government is taking a major step forward in delivering a historic economic reform. It is a reform which will ensure that Australians get a fair share of the returns from the sale of our non-renewable resources. It will ensure that those returns are distributed right around the community to every corner of our country. I have been listening to the various contributions to this debate over the past 17 hours, and I can tell that those opposite have simply given up the fight—they have lost the stomach for the fight, because they know that history has caught up with them and they are on the wrong side of this debate. They are a party divided and they have finally realised that no is not an answer. It is certainly not an answer when it comes to the needs of our small businesses and certainly not an answer when it comes to the superannuation accounts of working Australians. So they do look very uncomfortable sitting there with their leader, siding with vested interests and not standing up for the 2.7 million small businesses of Australia and the eight million workers of Australia. As they have gone through the debate over the past 17 hours, you can see it gradually dawning on their faces that they are about to vote against the interests of 2.7 million small businesses around this country and against the interests of over eight million working Australians. I never thought I would see the party of Menzies and Howard voting against small business in this House in the way they are about to do. I never thought I would see that, but I am certainly not surprised that they are voting against the interests of eight million working Australians—they have a proud record of continuing to do that for a long period of time! But to come into this House—the party of Menzies and Howard—and to vote against the interests of small business, as well, I think sets a new low for the modern Liberal Party.

The Australian people will not forget this day. This will be the day that the Liberal Party established itself as the party of the vested interest, not the party of the national interest—a party which has been captured by a handful of companies, not the great mass of the working population of this country—and they will carry this vote with them forever. It will be hung around their necks for the rest of their careers. It will never be wiped from their voting record.

We on this side of the House have chosen this path not because we thought it was going to be easy but because we were absolutely determined to deal with the pressures of the patchwork economy. We chose this path because we believe that Australians deserve a fair return for non-renewable resources—resources they own 100 per cent. When listening to the debate tonight from the Liberals and the Nationals on the other side the House, you would think that these resources were owned by the companies. They are not; they are owned by the Australian people. When prices go to 140-year highs, the Australian people are entitled to a fair return from those resources and they are entitled to have it spread right around their community, not for it to be the exclusive preserve of a few shareholders. These resources are owned by the Australian people, not by the companies. They are our resources. They are nonrenewable; they can only be dug up once, and we as a nation should be using the profit from those resources to invest in the future of our country, to attract investment in the country and to spread the profit from it around the country to strengthen our country and to build our nation. That is what this is all about. We on this side of the House are the nation builders looking after our workforce, building our small businesses, building the infrastructure, strengthening our economy, building our national savings and strengthening this country for the future—taking advantage of the fact that our terms of trade are at 140-year highs.

That is why we have a proposal for a resource rent tax: to make sure we invest it for the future of our country so we can build our nation, because these resources can be dug up only once and what we are doing is making sure that future generations benefit from these resources. We are making sure they go to the workforce, to eight million workers; to the eight million sovereign wealth funds, the superannuation accounts of the Australian workforce, making sure they get a fair go; and of course making sure that many of the small businesses that are not in the fast lane also get a tax break. This is a very important measure. It will really assist small business cash flow.

On top of all that, there is the investment in infrastructure, particularly in the mining regions. That is also critical, because the mining communities around some of our most profitable mines are not receiving the investment they should be receiving—for example, around Mackay, Townsville, Rockhampton, Mount Isa. We intend to make those investments. Even if the local members do not have a clue about how it can be done and how they should support their electorates, we are determined to make sure that we support those very productive parts of our economy through investment in infrastructure as well.

But we also understand that not every industry is in the mining-boom fast lane. We understand that tourism and other parts of manufacturing are suffering because our dollar is higher. We understand it is important to put in place a range of policies that make our economy more competitive and give a fairer go to those businesses. That is also very important.

What we have here is a package of very important reforms. The $6,500 instant asset write-off will put something like $1 billion in 2012-13 into our economy, into assistance for small business. Think about that for a moment: a billion dollars. But that is not good enough for the party of Howard and Menzies. It is the Labor Party that is prepared to do that because we understand the need to give many small businesses a helping hand.

We also understand the importance of superannuation—what it can do not just for the dignity of working Australians in retirement but also to build up our national savings. We saw how important that was during the global financial crisis and recession. Our superannuation savings were used to recapitalise Australian businesses at a very difficult time. Our national superannuation savings pool is a tremendous asset to this country, the envy of the world, but we have to build it up for individuals and we have to build it up for our nation because as a capital-hungry country we do need to build up our national savings as well—not just our public savings but also our private savings. That is why we want the superannuation guarantee to go up from nine to 12 per cent. For a worker aged 30 who retires at 65, that means an additional $108,000 in retirement, a 24 per cent increase in their retirement savings. So there will be a very significant boost over time, not just from the guarantee but also from the additional contribution we are putting into the accounts of low-income workers. It will be a very significant boost to the superannuation of many of the lowest paid in our community, many of them women and many of whom do not have very significant retirement savings at all.

All of this comes together in a plan which builds the nation, builds up our workforce, builds up our national savings, builds up superannuation, builds up small business and builds up mining communities. This is how we must respond to the challenges of the mining boom and the challenges of the Asian century.

Now, it is not too late for those opposite to change their minds. The case here is compelling, and we have been reading in the newspapers that there are a number on the other side who are now having second thoughts—and so they should, because the case is so compelling. It is not too late for them to vote for a big tax cut for small business. It is not too late for them to vote for a significant boost in superannuation for eight million Australian workers. We have in the MRRT and the PRRT a tax system which gives an increased return to the nation when times are good. That is why we have a resource rent tax—so that when the terms of trade are high we get a fair share of those. It is something that encourages investment. It is a good tax. That is why it was recommended by the tax review, to replace royalties. Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Listening to those opposite talk about royalties tonight you would swear that they thought the system of royalties is a great tax; it is not. It is an inefficient and poor tax which does not give a fair return to the Australian people, but we have a system which can achieve these other objectives while delivering a fair return to the Australian people. That is what this legislation is all about. It will deliver for small miners just as it will deliver for all in the mining industry. It does not discriminate against small miners at all. It is important to take into account the situation of small miners, and the government has done so. That is why we will lift the threshold to $75 million. We think that is a reasonably good idea—we think that it probably has something going for it—and I hope that we can see that supported in the House tonight. The bulk of this tax will be paid by the very large miners—make no mistake about that—and that is as it should be, because they are the ones who are super profitable.

This bill is a very important reform. It has been argued in this House that somehow it is discouraging investment, but we have a record investment pipeline in mining in Australia at the moment. There is something like $430 billion in the pipeline with something like $82 billion in this year alone, which is up from $35 billion only two years ago. It is very important to put this arrangement in place so that the Australian people can get a fair return.

What is so strange about the debate we are having in this House is that while the mining industry largely supports this tax and says they will pay more, the Liberal and National parties in this House say, 'No, no—they can't afford it; they deserve a tax cut,' and they say all that when they have a $70 billion crater in their budget bottom line while still claiming that they are fiscally responsible! Their first new initiative is to make the big miners pay less tax. How does that work? It certainly does not add up. It defies logic and shows just how irrational those opposite have become.

It has been argued that somehow there has not been enough consultation. There has probably never been tax legislation which has been subject to more consultation than have the bills before this House. It has been absolutely comprehensive—up hill and down dale, two waves through the tax office, the Argus review and parliamentary inquiries. There has never been more consultation or debate about a bill in this House in the last 20 or 30 years than there has been about this bill. It has been absolutely comprehensive and very thorough, as it should be.

We on this side of the House are supporting very strongly this historic reform to the Australian taxation system which delivers a fair return to the Australian people for the resources they own 100 per cent. We must do this so we support our small businesses. We must do this so we support Australian workers. We must do this to build the nation. We must do this to create prosperity for the future. That is why we on this side of the House are strongly supporting all of these bills before the House. We understand that if we want to leave a stronger Australia for our children and if we want to build the nation, it takes a brave proposal like this which spreads the bounty of our country to every corner of the nation. This is what is required to build a prosperous Australian nation in the 21st century.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): The original question was that this bill be now read a second time, and to this the honourable member for Kennedy has moved as an amendment that all words after 'that' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question therefore is that the amendment be agreed to.

A division having been called and the bells having been rung—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: As there are fewer than five members on the side for the ayes, I declare the question resolved in the negative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of those members who are in the minority will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.

Question negatived, Mr Katter, Mr Crook and Mr Christensen voting aye. Question put:

That this bill be now read a second time.

A division having been called and the bells having been rung—

The SPEAKER: The member for North Sydney having placed something on his head has raised a point of order. The question is that this bill, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011—one bill—be read a second time.

The House divided.   [00:13]

(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time. Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.