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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 3487


Senator CORMANN (3:02 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water (Senator Wong) to questions without notice asked by Senators Birmingham, Bernardi and Cormann today relating to the proposed new tax on mining.

Clearly the Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Wong, had no idea what she was talking about when she was answering questions from coalition senators about the government’s supertax on mining today. This is just one further example of absolute failure and incompetence by the Rudd Labor government. The minister is not across the brief that she represents in this chamber. Why is that? Very clearly, this is yet another policy decision that was made by a very small circle of two without the proper cabinet processes, without proper procedure and without making sure that everyone that should be involved was involved.

We have a Prime Minister in Australia who has completely lost the plot. Whatever he has touched he has stuffed up. He inherited a healthy balance sheet and he stuffed that up with reckless spending, giving us record deficits and record levels of debt. He was going to bring down the price of fuel and groceries and he stuffed that up—remember GroceryWatch and Fuelwatch. He was going to protect our borders, presenting himself as a mini-me John Howard and he stuffed that up, 137 boatloads of illegal immigrants having arrived on our shores since Kevin Rudd softened the strong border protection policies he inherited from the Howard government. He was going to bring in an emissions trading scheme and he stuffed that up too because he was too frightened to engage in a proper debate about the massive flaws in his scheme. So wherever you look there are failures, incompetence and broken promises. What is the reason for that? We have a government that does not go through proper process. Ministers of the government are not aware of what is being done and why it is being done. That is the reason Minister Wong was not able to answer some very basic questions today.

This supertax on mining is a bad tax. It is bad for Australia and it is even worse for my home state of Western Australia. It is going to cost jobs and it is going to reduce investment, yet this government was waving around the KPMG Econtech modelling report to suggest that, no, things are not going to be so bad, investment is going to go up and jobs are going to go up, all of which is of course completely counterintuitive. The argument on which the government based that assertion is to say that marginal projects are going to be better off; a profit based system instead of the system of state and territory royalties will make sure that marginal projects will be able to survive and thrive where royalties might choke them. Part of that is the big assertion made by the Rudd government again and again that they would like royalties to be abolished altogether, but because the states have not agreed with this—because they have not consulted the states about any of this—they will just refund them. But in the fine print is that the only mining ventures and companies that are going to get their royalties refunded are those that are subject to the so-called superprofits tax.

If you make a profit of zero to six per cent, you will continue to pay state royalties as before and you will not be eligible for a refund of those state royalties. That means that for those marginal projects nothing is going to change. They are not going to be any better off, there is not going to be any additional investment and there are not going to be additional jobs. We are going to have the impact at the top where the government is going for this lazy tax grab from those projects which have a regular and reliable profit, those projects which have taken on all the risk, which have made all the hard decisions, which have gone through the challenging times and which have a regular and reliable cash flow. From those projects the government is coming in and saying, ‘We want to take 40 per cent off the top of that, thank you very much.’

The reason the government is imposing this tax retrospectively is that there is no money for the government in new projects. We have a Prime Minister who wants to fix up his massive deficit and his record levels of debt, so he goes for this lazy tax grab from the mining sector because he thinks, ‘We can sell that to the Australian people—that’s not going to be too hard.’ But he has not explained the fine print. This is a bad tax. This is a tax which is going to be particularly bad for Western Australia. WA Labor members and senators have been missing in action on this. If they had any courage, they would stand up and call on the Prime Minister to axe this tax now. If they cared about Western Australia, they would call on the Prime Minister to dump this terrible tax which is going to be bad for Western Australia. But, of course, the only way to axe this tax is to axe Kevin Rudd. So we call on the Australian people to axe this government. This is the way to change this tax.