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Friday, 16 March 2012
Page: 1991

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (09:23): I must admit that I have had a lot of trouble dealing with the repercussions and complexities of this tax. The reason I had little trouble with the carbon tax is simple. I believed it was a flawed tax and that it had grown from a flawed and questionable premise. On that basis I had no problem opposing that tax and will have no problem calling on whatever government is in power after the next election to repeal that tax for the sake of all Australians. However, we are here today to debate the mining tax in the limited time we have been allocated.

I support the statements made by others in this chamber that the guillotining of this and other debates is simply undemocratic. There is absolutely no reason why this collection of bills should be rushed through. We have bills that travel through the Senate in the blink of an eye—and rightly, because they are not controversial and are supported mainly by all here. They are not insignificant bills. They are bills that demonstrate the similarities we have and the similarities of belief in the Australian community. We think as one on many things and determine unanimously to demonstrate that again and again with non-controversial bills. That is all the more reason why we should debate controversial bills to the fullest extent, giving everyone their say and thereby representing the voices of all Australians. No better example could be given than this the mining tax. I oppose the practice of guillotining and will do so no matter who is in government.

The mining tax is fraught with dangers. The Democratic Labor Party are not fundamentally or philosophically opposed to the basis for this tax. We believe the property, assets, resources, minerals et cetera belong to the people and, as such, the states of the Commonwealth. We hear people say that it belongs to the Crown—and we can debate what the true meaning of that is until the cows come home. We must all agree that, in any decisions we make, the welfare of the people of Australia comes first. In hindsight, maybe the MRRT is a good idea. It might provide a very necessary backup for those super funds that may be lost to bad investments. If it is not just about putting the budget into surplus, if it is about making mining companies pay a fair share of tax, then wouldn't it be better to do it through tighter controls on income tax regulations? If you cannot get companies to comply with the current income tax regulations or, if they spend more money on finding loopholes in the tax laws, then surely the same thing will happen with any new tax. If you say that you can make sure there are no loopholes in this new tax, you are simply trying to con yourself and others. If you cannot get them to comply with the current tax laws, then they will not comply with the new tax laws. New taxes do not make multinational corporations more community minded.

Consulting with the three biggest miners whilst virtually ignoring the vast majority in the mining industry is simply putting money before people, and that was never the Labor way. This tax is something a Labor Party can introduce and, if done fairly and used wisely, it can be a great thing for this country. But the methods used to introduce this were decidedly un-Labor. I question whether, in effect, we are contributing to producing another duopoly. Are we going to encourage Australian miners, Australian industry owned in this country, whilst at the same time encouraging foreign investment in our industries? Since the day I came to the Senate I have stated clearly that there is no level playing field in manufacturing, no level playing field in farming, no level playing field in our overseas trade and no level playing field in the mining industry—and I say it once again.

This tax can be a good tax. It can bring benefits to this country and, most importantly, to the Australian people. Like all taxes it can only do so if it is imposed honestly, fairly and evenly and if the proceeds are used wisely and specifically for the benefit of the Australian people. If this is just about getting the budget into surplus or adding to superannuation funds then you can save yourself quite a few billion dollars by stopping the funding of those incredible white elephants that are breeding across the country faster than rabbits—wind turbines.

On the issue of superannuation I fail to see how this tax can be used to top up private super funds when, as I understand it, only an employer or an employee can contribute to those funds. I assume that the further change to the superannuation legislation is the offering, but we will have to wait before commenting further. With my serious concerns about where this money is going to, how it is going to be raised and the effect it is going to have on our smaller miners, I will be voting against this tax at the present time but would look forward to the government relooking at what they are doing and addressing all of those concerns of our smaller miners.