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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4349

Senator ABETZ (2:02 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the current Prime Minister. Does the current Prime Minister stand by Senator Evans’s claim that the Labor government’s great big new tax on mining, as currently proposed, is a good thing which will encourage the mining sector to grow?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I thank Senator Abetz for the question. As Senator Abetz and all other senators understand, the government has proposed a tax on super profits in the mining industry. That has been the subject of great public debate and is currently the subject of a consultative process with the mining industry regarding implementation of those new taxation arrangements. It is the case that the Labor government believe that we should get a fairer share from our non-renewable resources, which of course can only be dug up once. We think it is appropriate that mining companies pay a greater share of tax on the profits they make from the use of those Australian resources. But it is also the case that the new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made it clear in her opening remarks at the press conference following her election that she was very keen to open the door to the mining industry and asked the mining companies to open their minds. She, if you like, laid down an olive branch in terms of the debate between the government and the industry. As a sign of goodwill, the government is taking action today to cease its information campaign as soon as possible. The Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, also asked that the mining companies cease their campaign, also as a sign of goodwill. I understand from news reports that I have recently seen that BHP have indicated that they will be suspending their ad campaign as an act of goodwill, so I think that is a positive development. I thank BHP for their indication, and I am sure the Prime Minister will engage constructively with the mining industry in these negotiations.

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the current Prime Minister now agree that the $38 million taxpayer funded advertising campaign in support of the ill-conceived great big new tax on mining was a gross waste of money? If so, why did she, as part of the so-called gang of four, approve of this advertising in the first place?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —The government had authorised the advertising campaign in support of the government’s policies in order to provide public information. As part of the negotiations with industry, the Prime Minister today offered to suspend that campaign in order to, if you like, lower the heat in the debate and indicate her willingness to work with the mining industry on these issues. I make it very clear that I will not be lectured to by Senator Abetz about the use of government advertising, given his appalling record and the politicisation of campaigning through the Howard government years, the huge waste of taxpayers’ money and the atrocious campaign that occurred in terms of industrial relations legislation on his watch. We will not be lectured by the opposition on the question of abuse of advertising— (Time expired)

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the current Prime Minister has said that she will throw open the door of government to the mining sector, can the minister advise the Senate as to when she will actually throw open the door and also why she helped in keeping the door so firmly closed in the first place?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I think the opposition continue to show their irrelevance to public debate in this country. The Prime Minister—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Evans, resume your seat. When there is silence we will proceed.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —It was very clear in her first press conference following her election by the Labor Party caucus to high office that the Prime Minister is prepared to negotiate with the mining industry and to open a constructive dialogue with them. As I said, in effect, she offered an olive branch by saying the government was prepared to suspend its information campaign as soon as possible. It is interesting that BHP has already taken up that constructive offer and has responded constructively by suspending their campaign. So I think these are good signs that the offer by Prime Minister Gillard is being treated seriously by the companies. (Time expired)