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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1213


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (16:05): It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to this urgent matter of public importance—the adverse impact of the government's management of the mining tax in terms of investment into Australia.

Australia is a very successful country. Despite the government, we are still successful. But the fact is that we have a history that is littered with failures that sometimes we don't really want to talk about too much. It goes back to the long-distance navigational abilities of Burke and Wills; the introduction of the cane toad into Queensland, to try and clean up the mess of grubs eating the cane stalks—

Mr Tehan: The rabbit!

Mr CHRISTENSEN: The rabbit is another one. The development of the Holden Sunbird—I mean, no-one would want to be caught dead being in a photo with that one! In more recent times we have had the iSnack 2.0. I think that lasted four days on the shelves. Click Frenzy, which happened last year, probably did not even last four minutes before the internet system went down and nobody could buy anything. And even Slim Dusty, that great Australian songwriter, put a song together about a failure: the Pub With No Beer, he called it. But I have to tell you that there is nothing so lonesome, morbid or funny than to gamble your surplus on a tax with no money.

The reality is that we have got another failure here in front of us with this mining tax and it is a failure of epic proportions. The thing about failures is that most people actually learn from them, do something about them and move on. But the government will not even acknowledge its failure on the mining tax front. The Treasurer was dragged, kicking and screaming, to announce to the public that this tax had raised only $126 million in half of a year of its operation—a quarter of what it was predicted to raise. He talks about the need for this tax to spread the wealth and spread the benefits around to everyone. As the member for Casey pointed out the other day, it is spreading $5.50 to every Australia—fantastic! It is not even enough to buy a McDonald's meal.

We have heard the Treasurer and the Prime Minister blame all sorts of different things for the reason this tax has fallen short. We have heard the blame falling on commodity prices. The Treasurer has certainly said that no commodity analysts or economists had forecast the tumble that took place in iron ore prices last year, but the fact is that iron ore prices have actually risen—so that is not a real excuse. But he did say that the resources rent taxes, by their nature, are difficult to forecast and that jumps and falls in the revenue relative to the estimates is to be expected. He is trying to blame it on international pressures on the mining industry or the resource industry and what that does with prices.

But then we have another excuse, and that is that it is the states' fault. This seems to be the Prime Minister's approach, that it is all those terrible state governments—even the Labor state governments—that are doing the wrong thing by having royalties. Royalties are something that state governments have always had and that were in existence for the life of the Howard government, when we did not have great deficits and debt. This is something that has been around for a long time, yet somehow it is the states' problem. Then we had the member Lyne coming in, as part of that menagerie that makes up the government, saying that it is these loopholes that are the flaw in the system and saying that these loopholes allow Rio and BHP to have $1.7 billion credits to buffer themselves from paying the tax—as TheAge put in its newspaper today.

But the thing is that these are not flaws; it was a tax that was actually designed that way. The tax was actually designed to allow the big miners to have $1.7 billion in credits to buffer themselves from paying. It was a deliberate design that was done in the deal that the Prime Minister made with the big three miners after she knifed the member for Griffith and took over his job.

Mr Tehan: She did what?

Mr CHRISTENSEN: She knifed the member for Griffith and took over his job on the basis of doing a deal with the mining companies that has seen this tax be completely flawed and a failure.

I can remember the full-page ad that the former local Labor member put in the Mackay newspaper. It had Julia Gillard smiling and it said: 'The deal is done! We have done the deal with the mining companies.' The Minister for Resources and Energy today said how great it was that this was a tax that was supported by the mining industry. Of course the big three miners would support a tax that they were never, ever going to have to pay. Hell, if you came to me with an income tax deal like that, I would sign up right away! The fact is that we have got more than $15 billion worth of commitments and promises from this government that are linked to this mining tax.

I have got to tell you that, out of that $15 billion, $5.6 billion is tied up in the Regional Infrastructure Fund. That actually makes up more than 95 per cent of that Regional Infrastructure Fund. Out of that is a project on the doorstep of my electorate, which is the upgrade of the Peak Downs Highway. The government said that they were going to contribute $120 million to that. The question now is: where is the money going to come from? For the member for Flynn, who is sitting behind me, the Gladstone Port Access Road was one of the promises that this mining tax was going to deliver. I am not exactly sure how much that was; but, again, where is the money going to come from?

Mr O'Dowd: It was $25 million.

Mr CHRISTENSEN: So $25 million for the Gladstone Port Access Road. For the Townsville Ring Road, which will have to be used by some constituents in the northern part of my electorate and certainly by constituents in the member for Herbert's electorate, $160 million was to be funded out of this mining tax. Where is the money going to come from? Wouldn't you wish for whinging Wendy from the Labor Party ads to turn up right now to front the Treasurer and ask, 'Where is the money coming from?'

The government say that they are not going to touch the mining tax and that they are not going to fiddle with it to increase the revenue. That may be right for now. There are already dogs baying. We had the member for Hunter say last night that the tax should be fiddled with to get more out of the mining industry. We have had the member for Griffith allude to that as well. As sure as night follows day, we are going to see after the next election, if—heaven forbid!—this government is returned to office, that the mining tax will be jacked up and that all bets will be off.

The mining tax has already caused sovereign risk to Australia. The resource industry just simply does not know what government policy is these days. After the next election, there are going to be question marks again. I want to tell you, from my electorate's point of view, what it has done. We have had, according to the Queensland Resources Council, something like 3,200 jobs lost in the last year—and they say there is another 1,000 more on the way. In just one part of my electorate—Mackay—we have 5,412 direct full-time employees engaged in the mining industry. That does not include contractors. In the indirect employment that is generated from mining, we have up to 62,600 employees. These are people actually engaged in mining or in services that flow on from mining.

The mining industry contributes $3.8 billion to that region through voluntary community contributions and the purchase of goods and services from local companies. Yet 3,400 positions were cut over the last six months, and 1,000 more are predicted to go. We have had report after report in local newspapers about this—jobs going at different mines, mines closing down throughout the Bowen Basin, and ancillary companies to the mining industry having to lay off dozens and in some cases hundreds of employees.

Winston Churchill actually said, regarding socialism, 'It's a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.' Well, there could be no better description for the Gillard Labor government and its mining tax. It is a failure of a government. It put in place a tax policy based on envy, ignorant to sovereign risk that it would create and the subsequent impact on mining investment and jobs. The result has been a failed tax spreading a miserable $5.50 per head of population. What a failure of a tax, what a failure of a government, what a failure of a Treasurer. He should stand down; he should resign.