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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 460

Mr WRIGHT —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy aware of the levels of State taxes and charges levied on mining and resources industries in Queensland? Is he able to inform the Parliament whether the mining and resources industries in Queensland approve of the taxing levels and regard them as being an incentive to their endeavours? Finally, does the high level of resources taxes in Queensland give credibility to Premier Bjelke-Petersen's nationwide campaign for lower taxes and flat taxes in Australia?

Mr BARRY JONES —It is interesting to hear the would-be ayatollah from the north, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, espousing the cause of lower income taxes when, according to a recent analysis based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, his Government has increased its revenue from State taxes and charges, fees and fines, and the profits of State run businesses at a faster rate than any other State, irrespective of whether it is a Labor government or a non-Labor government.

Mr Hawke —There is only one other non-Labor government.

Mr BARRY JONES —Tasmania is the only other State, but there is the Northern Territory, of course, not to mention the Australian Capital Territory. Queensland State revenue from these sources increased by an average real rate of growth of 7 per cent over each of the last six years compared with the average of all the other States of 4 per cent per year. That is Queensland style State socialism under Sir Joh.

A major part of Queensland tax revenue comes from the State's very heavy coal transport charges, which contain a significant element of taxation by way of profit, particularly on rail freights. The Queensland Chamber of Mines has estimated that the profit or tax component of the $584m collected as rail freights in Queensland in 1984-85 was $364m, or 62 per cent. A recent report by one of the major coal producers in Queensland also estimated that railway `profits' amounted to 67 per cent of its total rail freight costs. Arguably, this is the highest tax in the world on coal exports. That is shameful at a time when the industry is fighting to maintain international competitiveness.

As Senator Gareth Evans stated at the Australian Coal Conference last year, taxes and charges on the coal industry need to be reviewed and replaced with a more equitable and rational taxation scheme. The Commonwealth Government is not opposed to the taxation of resource industries but taxation has to be open to the public view and must not discourage production. That is much better than the hidden profits or the concealed system of taxation which operates on Queensland coal production. The rail freight agreements negotiated between the Queensland Government and coal producers are confidential. Because they are confidential this inhibits informed debate on the matter. How can we have an open debate in the Kafka-like atmosphere of secrecy and cronyism of Joh style politics?

The Queensland Government is also using public services to consumers, including electricity charges, as a taxing mechanism to a greater extent than other States. Rail freights in particular though are being used as the milch cow. It is the depths of hypocrisy and wilful misleading of the public for Joh to proclaim what he believes about tax levels at a time when Queensland's average income has fallen from 92 per cent of the national average in 1979-80 to 90 per cent in 1984. As Steve Hatton remarked, how extraordinary it is to have a person standing on the steps of his $10m aircraft, which costs Queensland taxpayers $1,800 an hour, talking about taxation discipline.