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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 12988

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (18:31): I speak in support of all of these bills. I particularly want to mention the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011. This is very important legislation, not just for this country but particularly for my home state of Queensland.

We are absolutely determined to make sure that the benefits of the mining boom so squandered by the coalition during the first mining boom, such a short time ago, will be extended across the length and breadth of this country so that all Australians can share in the benefit. We want to make sure that the most profitable mining companies will pay their fair share of tax. We want to make sure that we have, as has been described on numerous occasions, a stronger, fairer, simpler taxation system, and we want to make sure that there are significant benefits to Australian small business, Australian households, Australian families and Australian individuals, by virtue of the minerals boom that we are experiencing across this country.

This MRRT legislation will provide good return on the wealth of Australia, which belongs to all Australians, for all Australians. The benefits under this legislation will be many. They include a company tax cut for all companies to 29 per cent on 1 July 2013; a new tax break for up to 2.7 million small businesses from 1 July 2012; investments in our regions, particularly in my home state of Queensland, through the Regional Infrastructure Fund and Regional Development Australia Fund; and a simplified personal tax for 6.4 million Australians, with a $500 standard deduction from 1 July 2012, and a $1,000 deduction from 1 July 2013. Of course, we will also help five million Australians by rewarding them with personal savings: a 50 per cent tax discount and up to $500 of interest income from 1 July 2012, increasing to $1,000 of interest income from 1 July 2013; a boost to superannuation for 8.4 million Australians—the first increase to take place from 1 July 2013; and expanded superannuation concessions for 3.5 million low-income earners and about 275,000 people over 50 years of age from 1 July 2012.

I listed those out because I wanted those who might be listening to recognise the economic consequences and the consequences to the financial budgets of Australians, not just presently but into the future and in their retirement. This is a fair and just piece of legislation that I think will make a difference.

The MRRT will apply to all new and existing iron ore and coal projects at a rate of 30 per cent An extraction allowance of 25 per cent reduces the effective rate of the MRRT to 22.5 per cent. This will make a difference. The design features reduce compliance costs for small miners, including a low-profit offset reducing the MRRT liability to nil for companies with an annual MRRT profit of $50 million or less. The offset phases out between $50 million and $100 million of MRRT profit.

This legislation has had a long and convoluted history. There has been a lot of community consultation and consultation with miners, including, on 1 October 2010, the Policy Transition Group, led by Don Argus and Minister Martin Ferguson, who commenced the consultation process.

This is important legislation for a number of reasons. It will have a big consequence for my community. For instance, over 43,500 people living in Ipswich and Somerset in the electorate of Blair will benefit from the rise in compulsory superannuation from nine to 12 per cent. That is what the Treasury data shows.

Those opposite opposed superannuation when it was initially brought in as compulsory under the Hawke-Keating government. Some extraordinary things were said about superannuation. Until very recently the opposition took the same attitude to superannuation as their predecessors back in the days of Peacock and Howard. In the early nineties, the idea of compulsory superannuation was denounced by the opposition. The business lobby were their allies and comrades in the battle. They described compulsory superannuation as a 'company killer' and they said that unemployment would rise and the economy would be deleteriously affected. They used all kinds of jeremiad in relation to superannuation. But we know that this will make a big difference. We have at March 2011 about $1.36 trillion invested in the superannuation industry—and there are market fluctuations; it goes up and down—and this has secured our future and provides security for the benefit of Australians across the country. This rise in superannuation will make a big difference in my community, and I look forward to the day when it comes in. It will also apply to electorates held by those opposite. Their attitude to this aspect is interesting. As I said, they opposed it fiercely and ferociously, but it will have a big impact in their electorates.

Small business will also benefit from the small business changes that I outlined: 10,700 small businesses in the Ipswich and Somerset region in the electorate of Blair will benefit from those changes. The small business changes will make a big difference, but those opposite who parade, preen and pose as champions of small business are opposing what we are doing in the MRRT. I want all small business operators to understand that.

I think those opposite, particularly members in South-East Queensland from the LNP, should hang their heads in shame because they are beneficiaries. I decided to do a bit of research and find out how the changes we are making through the MRRT will benefit small business. As I said 10,700 small businesses will benefit in my electorate of Blair, but also other electorates in South-East Queensland such as Longman, 13,300 businesses; Dickson, 14,800 businesses; Groom, 17,400 businesses; Wright, 18,500 businesses; Fisher, 19,900 businesses; Ryan, 20,200 businesses; Fadden, 23,100; and Fairfax, 23,100 businesses. Those opposite are opposing the small business write-offs that I have outlined already which will help the small business operators in their electorate. They have got the gall to come into this place and say they support small business when they are opposing the very reforms which would make a difference in the lives of small business operators in the state of Queensland.

They claim that the minerals resource sector is paying their fair share of tax when they know very well that there is person after person, company after company which have been cited during this debate to indicate that they are prepared to pay this tax and that this arrangement has been undertaken through consultation. They know we can only dig up the resources of this country once, but those opposite will claim and have claimed that the mining companies pay their fair share. But the public think otherwise, and I am sure that in their heart of hearts those opposite also know that that is not the case.

I mentioned the minerals resources rent tax and what an impact it will have in my home state of Queensland. The view of those opposite on regional development and regional infrastructure was to engage in what the Australian National Audit Office described in a 1,200-page report as—and I will use my words and the words of Minister Albanese—regional rorts. We set up a process whereby Regional Development Australia would be carried out in a more meritorious, transparent and accountable process. Regional Development Australia is an investment—and we are doing this under the minerals resources rent tax—of about a billion dollars over five years, funding a diverse range of economic and community infrastructure projects across Australia. Five hundred and seventy-three million dollars is contingent on the passage of the minerals resources rent tax.

In my electorate we were fortunate enough to get $2 million in the first round of the Regional Development Australia Fund for the Somerset Civic Centre, which replaced the Lyceum Hall that had burnt down. It will be a 350-seat centre. It will have a stage, backstage areas, dressing rooms, multifunction rooms and amenities. It is important in the terribly flood affected area of Esk. Those opposite opposed the funding for this. They also opposed so many other areas of regional development which have been funded by this government, including things like the Better Regions funding and the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure funding, which have made a difference not just in Ipswich with the Robelle Domain Parklands but with the refurbishment of the Ipswich Civic Centre, the creation of the corporate centre at Ipswich and the rugby league stadium in North Ipswich. They also opposed the flood levy, which was necessary to rebuild communities like Ipswich and Somerset.

Those opposite have also opposed in this legislation the source funding for the Regional Infrastructure Fund which comprises about $6 billion in funding targeted at states like Queensland and Western Australia, which face large infrastructure demands, and $5.6 billion of that funding is contingent on the passage of the minerals resources rent tax. Those members opposite from Queensland in the LNP and those from Western Australia in the coalition should hang their heads in shame in opposing this legislation. We have provided in our commitments funding to so many terrific projects. I was pleased to hear Minister Albanese talking about that today in answer to a question I put in relation to the Blacksoil interchange and commit to it.

The Blacksoil interchange is the intersection of the Warrego Highway and the Brisbane Valley Highway. It is one of what the mayors of South-East Queensland describe as the 'Magnificent 7' projects that they urged both sides of politics to fund before the 2010 election. It is a $70 million project. The state Labor government in Queensland committed $16 million and it sought $54 million from us. My LNP opponent last election described it as a worthy project and actually ran demonstrations at the Blacksoil interchange but made a commitment of zero, zilch, nil—not a dollar was committed. Notwithstanding the fact that the member for Groom and I had discussions—in fact we debated with the mayors of South-East Queensland at a forum in Ipswich at Walloon and at Haigslea in relation to this issue before and during the last election—not a cent was committed by those opposite to this vital project.

Recently we have had the mayors and councils from South-East Queensland here in Canberra urging infrastructure in South-East Queensland, urging the opposition to support the Blacksoil interchange upgrade. Indeed they have, by opposing this legislation, opposed the funding for the Blacksoil interchange, which is the most important interchange and intersection in South-East Queensland, according to the Council of South East Queensland Mayors. At the last federal election, on the first day of the election campaign, we had mayors from South-East Queensland standing at the Blacksoil interchange, urging both sides of politics to fund it. The coalition, by opposing this legislation, opposes the Blacksoil interchange upgrade.But why should we be surprised about that? For three elections in a row, the coalition opposed a project which was supported by the Liberal Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman—the alternative Premier of Queensland—supported by the coalition at a state level, supported by all the councillors in South-East Queensland, supported by the state Labor government and supported by this side of politics. I refer to the Ipswich motorway upgrade. They took a policy to the last election saying they would stop construction on the Ipswich motorway, putting at risk 10,000 jobs. That is their idea of infrastructure.

I want everyone from Queensland to know that the coalition's opposition to the MRRT stops regional infrastructure and road funding in South-East Queensland that we are going to deliver under the MRRT legislation. Their opposition to the Ipswich motorway and the Blacksoil interchange and their failure for 12 years when sitting on this side of the House to support infrastructure in South-East Queensland is indicative of their attitude to roads, rail and ports. Indeed, we have increased by 70 per cent the funding to road infrastructure in Queensland.

Those opposite, the LNP members from Queensland, should hang their heads in shame for this opposition to the MRRT, because they know that the mayors from South-East Queensland support this. The only mayor I know in South-East Queensland who holds a Labor Party membership ticket is the Mayor of Ipswich, Paul Pisasale. All the others are on that side of politics. But they all support what we are doing, particularly in relation to the Blacksoil interchange, the Ipswich motorway and the other infrastructure across Queensland. But those opposite oppose it. They fail on infrastructure and they should hang their heads in shame. They should be supporting the MRRT legislation. It is important for Queensland. It is important for electorates across South-East Queensland in particular.