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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13402

Mr SLIPPER (FisherDeputy Speaker) (23:23): I am pleased to have the opportunity, albeit at this late hour, to join in the debate on this package of legislation currently before the chamber.

I will not detain the House for long, as just about everything that could be said about this legislation has been said by members on both sides of the chamber. I do, however, want to place on record my opposition to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011 and also the related bills.

I think that it is unfortunate that a further tax is being considered. I believe it is not correct that three companies should be given an advantage, and I believe that another tax is not the solution to the need for the government to obtain additional revenue.

This legislation amounts to a cash grab by a government that needs additional funds to continue to run the country. While the Sunshine Coast, that I am privileged to represent, is not traditionally seen as a mining area, we are an area which does have a substantial involvement in the mining industry. Mr Deputy Speaker Sidebottom, I suspect that you, and most other honourable members, have visited the Sunshine Coast, boosting our local economy, enjoying the hospitality of our people and hopefully benefiting our local economy by spending dollars there, thereby creating jobs and making a better lifestyle for those people who live there. If honourable members have not yet been to the Sunshine Coast, may I take this opportunity to encourage them to do so. We are primarily a tourist region, though we do have other industries, and people come from all over the country to visit the Sunshine Coast and enjoy our beaches and our wonderful way of life. But the employment situation across the nation is making it more difficult for many people who reside on the Sunshine Coast to actually get employment there, and they are increasingly searching further afield for work.

The mining industry has provided an answer, and it has also given opportunities for those prepared to fly into and out of the Sunshine Coast to mining communities. It really is important, therefore, from the point of view of those families on the Sunshine Coast reliant upon the mining industry, for the mining industry to continue to be prosperous. Unless the industry is prosperous those jobs will not be provided and local people will no longer have the opportunity to be supported by this industry which has made such a wonderful contribution to the economy of Australia for so many years.

The mining resource rent tax is a threat to the jobs of workers and families. Currently, we have about 2,500 people based on the Sunshine Coast who are employed in the mining sector, and what we really want to achieve on the coast is a situation where we have a very good fly-in fly-out operation. The Sunshine Coast is obviously one of the best parts of our society in which to live. It is one of the most attractive parts of the country. And if we are able to continue to have increasing numbers of people flying in and out of the Sunshine Coast, then that is going to boost our local economy while of course providing an educated, qualified and motivated workforce for the mining industry.

The difficulty is that, with the mining resource rent tax, we are going to have a situation where the industry will have less incentive to expand, and that is indeed unfortunate. There are almost 8,000—in fact, 7,666—businesses in the construction sector which have a vested interest in the continuation and growth of the mining sector. Many of these businesses are family businesses. People work hard. They make sacrifices. They pay their fair share of tax to make ends meet. Unfortunately, if the mining resource rent tax legislation becomes part of the legal fabric of this country then obviously there will be additional tax burdens. This will impact adversely on the ability of the mining industry to provide the kind of living needed by so many of our local businesses which are affected by the economic fortunes of the mining industry, which is an extremely important industry as far as the future of Australia is concerned. It really is important that the government, at this late hour, reconsider this legislation.

It also presents certain difficulties, insofar as the Commonwealth appears to be taking responsibility for an industry and for resources which, under our Constitution, are in fact the property of the states. So I can imagine that there will be a substantial amount of litigation. As a former lawyer, I can understand that this sort of legislation will be excellent for my former colleagues but not necessarily excellent from the point of view of the economic health of the country.

I just think that it really is important to encourage investment in the mining industry and, therefore, it is counterproductive to introduce a tax which will undermine investment because it will act as a powerful disincentive for people to put their money where their mouth is, and we will see this industry, which has really been a saviour for Australia, not succeed as it has in recent times. I therefore ask the government to reconsider the provisions of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill. It is one thing to look at what money the government hopes to obtain from the introduction of this legislation; on the other hand, the government ought to consider the costs that will impact upon so many local communities, including the community on the Sunshine Coast.

I place on the record my opposition to this package of legislation and my intention, when a vote takes place either later tonight or early tomorrow morning, to vote against this legislation. I see it as being retrograde legislation, legislation which will not benefit the local economy on the Sunshine Coast, legislation which is inequitable in so far as it tends to impact more adversely on smaller players in the industry rather than larger players. The government really ought to go back to the drawing board to try to bring forward legislation which is more equitable, less rushed and something which can be accepted by the Australian people.