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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 5181


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:20): My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In relation to the proposed tax forum, will the government review the Treasury proposal for a mining super profits tax, particularly in view of the BlueScope Steel decision to stand down 1,000 workers, the two-speed economy and BlueScope's observation that it is the mining resources boom that has caused these difficulties, which are likely to spread to the rest of the manufacturing sector?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:21): There are a number of aspects to that question but, in relation to the first and primary question, as I think the chamber will know and as Senator Brown will know, the government has made clear its view about the shape and nature of the minerals tax, which will be presented to the parliament. It will be as was indicated prior to the election and as agreed in consultation with the industry.

But there are other aspects of Senator Brown's question which are very on point and they include the fact that this is one of the ways in which a government that is focused on the future can use the benefits of the mining boom to alleviate competitive pressures on other parts of the economy. Let us recall that the minerals tax will be used, amongst other things, to help fund reductions in the company tax rate, with a head start for small business; to invest in regional infrastructure, to alleviate bottlenecks; and to increase superannuation. It is extraordinary that those on the other side, who claim to care about manufacturing and who claim to care about the non-mining sectors of the economy are actually opposing a tax that many sectors of the mining industry itself have said they are prepared to pay. This is a key policy to deal with the patchwork economy and those on the other side are doing what they do best—saying no and talking down the economy. So anybody who is under any illusion that the coalition have any vision as to how to manage an economy in transition, a mining boom, massive mining investment, with all the pressures that that brings on the non-mining sectors, they only need to look at their policy when it comes to the minerals tax, a reduction in the company tax rate and a reduction in the tax rate for small business and they will see that all they want to do is say no.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I will give you the call in a moment, Senator Brown. I address this remark to both sides: Senator Brown is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:23): I ask the minister, notwithstanding the government's position, whether the proposed forum on taxation should be prohibited from looking at a mining super profits tax, as proposed by Treasury? I further ask: does the government support discussion at this forum of a sovereign wealth tax, as proposed by the Greens, the Australian Industry Group and, amongst others, Mr Malcolm Turnbull? (Time expired)

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:24): Firstly, in relation to the minerals tax, the government have made clear their position about the design of that tax. Obviously, if people at the forum wish to raise issues, people can do so. But the point is the government have made clear what their position is and we will be honouring our position, as indicated prior to the election.

Senator Bob Brown: Mr President, I asked the question but I cannot hear the answer.

The PRESIDENT: Those who are debating across the chamber know it is disorderly. Senator Wong, you have 28 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: In relation to the sovereign wealth fund issue, I do note with some interest that there are parts of the coalition that appear to be supporting Senator Brown's position in relation to an additional sovereign wealth fund.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, resume your seat. Senator Cameron and Senator Bernardi, Senator Brown is entitled to hear the answer without the interjections going across the chamber between the two of you.

Senator WONG: I would make the point that, if the concern is increasing the national savings rate, then one of the components to be funded out of MRRT revenue is an increase in the superannuation— (Time expired)

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:26): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question regarding the upcoming tax forum. Will the government consider extending the minerals tax to gold, particularly in light of projections that the price of gold on the world market may pass $2,000 and indeed could be headed as high as $5,000 in the coming year or two?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:26): As I think I have indicated on a number of occasions in the context of this answer, the government has made its position in relation to the design of the MRRT clear. I appreciate that Senator Brown has a different view, but the governĀ­ment has made its view clear. I would like to add one thing, though: at least Senator Brown and his party are focused on one of the key policy challenges the economy faces, which is how to manage the transition the economy is undertaking, how to manage the effects of the mining boom. It is quite extraordinary that those on the other side on this issue have no policy. The Greens are prepared to acknowledge and deal with this issue. The Greens are prepared to look at this economic issue. Those on the other side are not. The only policy position they have is the capacity to say no and a $70 billion black hole in the federal budget.