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Friday, 16 March 2012
Page: 2027


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (12:12): The Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011 and related bills are just others in the line of examples of the way Labor does things: you tax and tax and tax and try to address any perceived problems by increasing taxation. That applies to Labor governments, be they Commonwealth, state or even local governments. In days of old, the Brisbane City Council was controlled by the Labor Party—it was a long time ago. Again, taxes went up in the Brisbane City Council until the people of Brisbane had had enough and voted in Campbell 'Can-Do' Newman to the Brisbane City Council, whereupon the resources and books of the Brisbane City Council were brought into order. Brisbane experienced almost unique development in those days. Roads and tunnels were constructed and the public service was made more efficient. Campbell Newman proved in Brisbane that he could do it. Labor had shown in Brisbane, when they ran the Brisbane City Council, that they were incompetent financial managers.

You only have to look at the government in Canberra, with a continuing saga of waste and mismanagement. My colleagues have been through just some of the waste—the green loans, which were on and then off, and the pink batts, which were put in and cost billions of dollars and then cost billions of dollars to pull out before people's houses were burnt down and people were killed. We had the school halls fiasco. School halls are, of course, good, but when you have dodgy contracts where people were charging twice what it should cost for the construction of those halls you understand that you just cannot trust the Labor Party with money. Similarly, in my home state of Queensland—and as a Queensland senator in the chamber of the states you will excuse me for speaking about my home state—with unprecedented wealth from the mining industry over recent years, we find that under Labor administra­tion Queensland has lost its AAA credit rating and now has a net debt that is approaching even the outrageously high extent of the Commonwealth debt problems. Last time I looked at Queensland govern­ment debt it was somewhere in the order of $90 billion. You get that when you have the Labor Party in charge, because all they know is how to spend money and then tax the people of Australia and Queensland to try to make up for their inefficiencies.

I listened with interest last night to a contribution by my colleague from Queensland Senator Mason, who tried to explain to Labor senators that you just cannot keep spending money you do not have. Senator Mason rightly referred any senator who had a modicum of intelligence to look at what happens in Europe when you have socialist governments that just keep spending other people's money. Look at Greece, Spain and Ireland, which all had socialist governments. It is easy to spend other people's money, and the people sitting opposite here in this chamber have made a signature task of spending other people's money. It is not their money; it is taxpayers' money. It is terribly easy to spend money when it is not yours. Anyone listening to this debate will know that if they borrow money and spend money there comes a day when it has to be paid back. To pay it back you have to get the resources from somewhere. But this Gillard government seems incapable even of understanding that.

Do you realise that as we sit here today we are borrowing on this day $100 million, putting it on the tick that someone in the future will have to repay? It will not be Labor Party or Greens members of the Senate who pay back that $100 million a day. It will be the Australian taxpayer. You only have to look at Greece, Spain and Ireland to understand that one day it will have to be paid back. And it will be paid back with tears.

I could not help laughing at my colleague from the Labor Party Senator Crossin talking about everything that could be done in infrastructure with a bit more money. She particularly mentioned the Outback Highway, which she rightly says both she and I are active advocates for. The difference between our support is that when we were in government, when I had some influence in the way money was spent, the federal government actually put money into the Outback Highway. Since Labor has been in charge the only money that has gone into the Outback Highway is money that was pre-planned from the previous government. Senator Crossin says that with all of the millions of dollars that are supposedly coming from this resource tax—and I will come to that fallacy later—you could build bridges along the Outback Highway and you could build bridges to Aboriginal communities. I say to Senator Crossin that, if she were serious, the $100 million we are borrowing—just today's borrowings—could go into the Outback Highway and it would seal a fair proportion of it. It would build bridges to Wadeye, as she was calling for. Less than one day's borrowings by this government would build those bridges.

She said to me that, if we vote against this, the projects this legislation is all about will not go ahead. I am sorry, I have had a look through the legislation and nowhere did I see that there is going to be a bridge to Wadeye. Nowhere did I see that there is going to be money for sealing the Outback Way. In fact I will bet anyone in this parliament that neither of those will be funded under this tax or any other tax this Labor government will introduce, because Labor is simply not interested in rural, regional and remote Australia. Even if they were they will not get the money from this bill to pay anything for additional infrastructure.

I have heard Labor speaker after Labor speaker saying, 'This wealth in the ground belongs to us. Why shouldn't we get something out of it?' I am sorry, I do not know what they have been doing, but we do get a lot out of it. They are called royalties. It is a tax by the government that owns those minerals on the mineral extraction in our country. Our Constitution was built on the fact that minerals in the ground belonged to state governments and, accordingly, state governments have been taxing them, so we have been sharing the wealth from those mining operations. As Senator Payne mentioned, the states will continue to tax mining operations through royalties. But the dodgy way this legislation before us is drawn is that when the states increase their royalties, because of the deal done with the big three miners—the top end of town—the Commonwealth will reduce its take. So I cannot understand why every state would not be substantially increasing its royalty take. They have not done it so far. Why? Because they understand that there has to be some part of the cake for everybody. They do not want to tax the mining companies out of existence. They do not want to send the mining companies and all the jobs and wealth they bring for Australians to other countries. And we are not unique. You can get coal in Indonesia, in South America, in Columbia and anywhere in Africa. You can get iron ore around the world. You can get nickel. You can get gold. Any resource we have you can find elsewhere in the world, and there will be a time when multinational companies will ask, 'Will we invest in Australia where we have real sovereign risk problems with the Labor government, or will we go to what are looking to us to be increasingly more stable environments in some of the worst parts of Africa?' This will happen.

States do not overtax the mining industry with royalties, but if I were a state government I would look at it and say, 'If they're going to be taxed anyhow, why don't we increase our tax? We'll take it. We'll do better things with it.' You could not waste money like the current federal government does—unless of course you were a Labor government in Queensland, in which case you could. Why would that not happen? That will mean that all these anticipated barrels of gold coming into the coffers federally will dissipate—that is, if they ever existed in the first place. As Senator Cormann has time and time again pointed out, the figures on what might come in from this tax are simply dodgy. When the tax was first raised we were told that it was going to raise $10.6 billion in revenue for the government. Then we were told it would raise $12 billion over the first two years. The government then made concessions. They reduced the rate from 40 per cent to 22½ per cent and they agreed to reduce the scope of the tax from mineral resources to be only on iron ore and coal, and to offshore extension of the petroleum resource rent tax. They have reduced it, but somehow they are going to get more money.

The figures are dodgy and, as much as we ask for those figures to be shown to the parliament of the nation, the people who are guardians of the taxpayers' money, we are refused. That is why Senator Cormann's amendment should be adopted. We should decline to give this bill further consideration until such time as the government publicly releases all information it holds relating to commodity prices, production volumes and the assumptions that are used in its mining tax revenue estimates. We also need to know the updated estimates of the cost of all matters associated with the mining tax over the forward estimates and the cost estimate of its commitment to credit all state and territory royalties against the resource rent tax. That is the matter I was just talking about: what assumptions did they make about the states increasing the royalties, which would mean they get less? We need to know the basis upon which they have made those estimates, and we also need to know the cost estimates of the upfront tax deduct­ions able to be claimed by mining projects subject to the MRRT on the basis of the market valuation method. In spite of our asking and asking, and pleading for this information, it does not come.

This is a government that the Greens supported because it was going to be open. Remember 'let the sun shine in'? Remember the accountability? Mr Acting Deputy President Marshall, you can understand why the Greens political party and the Labor Party have done this deal with the top end of town. It was a secret deal behind closed doors done by the person I am embarrassed to say is the country's Treasurer, Mr Swan, with the three mining giants, the real top end of town—Xstrata, BHP and Rio Tinto. Nobody knows what the deal was. The Greens and the Labor Party have a bit of form in looking after the top end of town. Senators will remember when the flood tax to assist the Queensland government was being debated. Every other state has to pay for its own natural disaster repairs, but the Queensland government is broke. The Queensland government's mates in Canberra put a flood tax on everybody to help the Queensland government through its financial crisis, and what happened? The top end of town, all those big mining companies, was exempted. Thanks to the Greens, Wool­worths and Coles were exempted from that flood tax, but the butcher and baker who compete with Woolworths and Coles had to pay up. We know the Greens' form in getting donations from the top end of town. I will not go into that, for reasons which will be obvious to senators, but when it comes to giving favour to the top end of town you cannot do better than the Greens political party and the Australian Labor Party.

I enjoy talking about Queensland. The Senate is a states' house and I want to look after Queensland. I just wish my current state Premier—that is, current for another few days—had stood up for my state of Queensland. We have real problems in Queensland now, thanks to the mismanage­ment of the current Labor government in Queensland. We have a $90 billion debt to address in Queensland alone. It is almost up to the $136 billion debt that the federal Labor Party has run up over a couple of short years. Queensland needs that money. Why was our Premier not fighting against the federal government to retain more of those funds for Queensland? Why would she simply roll over? I will tell you why she rolled over. She does not want anyone to look at her policies. She does not want anyone to look at her record. All she wants to do is go out in the election campaign that is currently being held in my state and, with the most vicious, dishonest campaign of personal vilification that I have seen in my long years in politics, try to divert the attention of Queenslanders away from her mismanagement and away from the fact that she did not stand up for Queensland against the federal government when it came to this minerals resource rent tax. She is trying to airbrush over her inefficiencies with a most massively negative, dishonest and untruthful campaign of personal vilification, which she is conducting against a man who has served our country in the defence forces and who is as squeaky clean and honest a man as you could find anywhere. But that is the old Labor Party trick: a week away, raise all these allegations. Even the Premier herself admitted to the media that she had no evidence whatsoever. But she has to do something, anything, to divert the attention of Queenslanders from the fact that she cannot manage the state, she cannot manage the finances, and all she can do is take Queensland into greater and greater debt.

The bill before us today is all about envy. It is typical Labor legislation. When you make a mess of things, what do you do to try and fix it up? You spend someone else's money. How do you get that money? You either borrow it, at $100 million a day, or you tax those in this society who are working to try and make something for themselves, for their families, for their state and for their country. With typical Labor flair, they just keep taxing and taxing and taxing. I again appeal to the Labor and Greens senators: do not listen to what we on this side say; have a look at what has happened in Greece, Spain and Ireland, where governments have spent money they do not have. They have lived a beautiful life on borrowed money—but some day you have to pay it back. That is what the Labor Party does not understand and that is why they will keep taxing and keep sending jobs overseas.

We used to have a minister for manufacturing in this government, but I think he has gone to the wall; we used to have someone who was interested in manufacturing. But now, if you want to be interested in manufacturing, you need to go to China because Australia is rapidly running out of manufacturing industries. Why? Because of the taxes and red tape that the Labor government keeps imposing. The carbon tax is a direct godsend to those countries that want to import Australian jobs. This minerals resource rent tax will again send Australian jobs and investment in Australia elsewhere and, in the end, we will be poorer for it.

I conclude by saying to the big three miners who have done this secret deal with Mr Swan: I guarantee your deal will end in tears, but do not come to me seeking my help when you have put Australia—

Senator Kim Carr: They probably won't!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, they have in the past. (Time expired)