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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13391


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (22:38): Today I rise to represent the thousands of owners and operators of small to medium sized businesses in the electorate of Flynn. These are all family businesses that operate as plumbers, mechanics, cleaners, transport operators, childcare centres—and the list goes on and on. These are the businesses that are going to have the flow-on from the minerals resource rent tax together with the carbon tax.

Let us talk about the increase in the superannuation guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent. Dishonestly, the government would have us believe that the mining tax will fund the additional three per cent increase in cost to businesses. This is not correct. It will pay the three per cent the government needs to fund the cost of paying the increase to the growing number of public servants, but it will not fund the cost to small business. Mum-and-dad businesses will have to pay it out of their own small incomes. And, as we know, small business is suffering right across Australia. Make no mistake: the MRRT will not contribute one cent to the increased cost caused by the MRRT and the carbon tax—not one cent.

What about the claim that business will get a reduction in company tax from 30 per cent to 29 per cent? About 60 per cent of these businesses are not registered as companies. So guess what? They will not get any tax reduction; they will stay at 30 per cent. That is another misrepresentation by this dishonest government.

A country cannot ever tax itself into prosperity, but this government is addicted to more taxes. If $75 million is a superprofit and warrants an additional tax, there must be a lot of Australian companies out there that are living in fear. What about the banks and financial institutions? I will bet they are getting a bit worried. They are making billions of dollars in profit; the government will be looking at them to tax them also.

Let us talk now about industries in my electorate. A week after the carbon tax passed through both houses in this parliament, Rio Tinto announced that they were isolating their investment in the Boyne Smelters and the NRG Gladstone Power Station, of which they own 42 per cent. They are preparing these investments for sale. They do not do overnight planning for these operations; they are on a 10- to 20-year plan and they have already factored in the cost of a carbon tax and possibly a mining tax, once it goes through this House.

Places like Indonesia, Mongolia, South America and Africa, where taxes and employment costs are much lower than in Australia, are only too willing to pick up our industries and take them offshore. We were the largest coal exporter in the world. Twenty years ago, Indonesia did not export any coal. Would you believe that now Indonesia exports more coal than Australia does? Australia is not the only country in the world that has these resources, but we are the only country in the world that has a tax like we will have after this mining tax comes in.

The government has presented the MRRT to the Australian public as a fix for all our ills, but how can we rely on the government's figures when the Treasurer—who calls himself the 'world's best Treasurer'—tells us one day that revenue from the MRRT will be $7.4 billion and then the next day he says it will be $24 billion? What will it be? Even the world's worst Treasurer would be able to tell us that there is a lot of fresh air between $7.4 billion and $24 billion. Yesterday the Treasurer gave the bizarre excuse that he is yet to update the government's numbers because, he claims, the states are yet to inform him. Hold the phone, Mr Deputy Speaker, the New South Wales and Western Australian governments' royalty increases are included in each state's recent budget papers.

I had assumed that Treasury knows how to read budget papers—but maybe I was wrong.

The big fear that government should have is if the Queensland state government—a Labor government—ever releases a take on royalties. Look out. The Queensland government is in dire straits with huge debt, and, once they do a Western Australia or New South Wales, the royalty issue becomes another field that we do not know. But you can rest assured that the royalties will not decrease; they will only increase, and it will be a burden to the mining industry again.

The Treasurer has to explain—and he should explain before this bill is put to the vote—what the assumptions are on the commodity prices and production volumes. Which companies will pay the MRRT? Which resources will pay the MRRT? How can Australia's small and medium miners afford the tax if Australia's biggest miners are not contributing to the tax? Coal and iron ore prices are controlled by China. We have no guarantee from the federal or state governments that royalties for regions will improve the state of our regions. What about our health systems? Is there any guarantee our health systems will be propped up in these coal-rich gas fields? We are experiencing high rent costs in those areas; they average between $500 and $2,000 a week. Our roads are deteriorating. There are gross housing shortages. This is placing enormous strain on fixed income families. The regional benefits from a mining tax are nil, as stated so far. I remain totally opposed to this tax.

The mining industry supports many community events, non-profit organisations and sporting events throughout my region. If there is a race meeting on, you can bet there is a trophy given from a mining company. If there is a rural show day, all these types of events are sponsored by mining companies in my area. There is never a community event that goes past where the mining companies have not put their hands in their pockets, sponsoring an event every day, every week, every month of the year. I wonder what will happen to these funding programs in the future. Your guess is as good as mine, but I would like a small wager on what the outcome will be.

I remain totally opposed to this tax and I want to close by saying that it is getting harder to support the government in the style to which it has become accustomed. We are taxing good Australian businesses out of existence, and the mum-and-dad businesses that are vitally important to my electorate deserve a much better deal.