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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2352


Senator SHEIL(10.10) —I am very happy to speak to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Bill, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Bill, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Interest on Underpayments) Bill and the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. In my experience, the front row men in the development of any country have been the mining men, the men who have gone out and have developed the resources that have supplied other resources for people to develop. Once those mines have been developed, the rural industries have followed and the whole expansion of the country has come about. The whole idea of the proposed tax is to stop the development of mining and drilling. Whatever one says about mining and drilling, they do create the wealth and the economy from which other industries can develop.

I remember a story about uranium mining in the United States of America. All the environmentalists were out and about and they said: `This is a shocking thing; Geiger counters are all over the country'. When they were out in the west of America they came across an Indian chief sitting on a rock. They asked him: `What do you think about all this mining development and all those fellows with Geiger counters who are taking over your country?'. The Indian chief replied: `I remember that in the days of my forefathers we lived on the country. We hunted the buffalo and we had the trees, the grass and the land. Then the white man arrived and, all of a sudden, he shot all the buffalo and left just the trees and the rocks. Then he went away. When he came back he cut down all the trees. He went away again and left only the rocks. Then he came back for the rocks'. But that is a sign of the development of modern times. We cannot deny the developments that are going on.

Australia needs fuel, energy and oil, and oil is the basis of energy at the moment. Yet the Government wants to tax the people who discover those resources before they have discovered them. That seems an upside down way to go about the development of our country. Why should we tax something before it exists? The resource rent tax is to be applied before any profits have been made. Surely, if we are to tax anything, we would tax something that exists.


Senator Cook —That is wrong.


Senator SHEIL —Let us have another look at that.


Senator Cook —Why don't you read the Bill? That would be a good place to start.


Senator SHEIL —Let me say to Senator Cook: Are people working in the industry to pay payroll tax? Of course they are. A payroll tax is a pre-profit tax.


Senator Cook —No, they are not. The employer will pay the payroll tax. It is a State tax, not a Commonwealth tax.


Senator SHEIL —It is a tax, is it not? It is a government tax. It does not matter which government imposes it. As far as the industry is concerned, it is a government tax.


Senator Boswell —Fringe benefits tax.


Senator SHEIL —There is the fringe benefits tax and all the other taxes. The taxes that are killing the mining industries of today are the pre-profit taxes. They are an expense that is built into the company that does not belong to the expense of the development of that industry. That is what the Australian Labor Party is all about. It wants to tax people and put it in as an expense against the development of the industry, and that cripples the industry. The Government does that so it can bring in social welfare benefits-its enlightened and progressive benefits. The Government talks about its beautiful programs, but those programs are not worth two bob if the money is not available to fund them. If development does not take place, the Government does not have the money. That is the size of the whole deal. These social reformers and people of Left socialistic economies complain about the administration of their countries and are labelled as defectors. However, they are still communists; they are still socialists. All they say is that the wrong people are running their economies.

How could a person possibly invest in the development of a mining industry in Australia if he knew that these taxes were ahead of him. The legislation will cause delays in exploration and development. It is a ridiculous proposition to suggest that the--


Senator Cook —Have you read the Bill?


Senator SHEIL —I have read the Bill and I know it very well. I know the aims behind the Government's proposal. The Government wants to stop development in Australia. It wants to tax every well or mine that is developed in Australia, whether it hits high grade oil or overburden, as we call it. Who would want to go into such a business when the Government taxes successful mines at the well head, well before anything is delivered to the people? The Government proposes to tax the successful mines and neglect all the other mines that have been drilled. My father was a mining engineer. I remember that about one mine in a thousand was successful. The Government wants to tax only the successful ones and not the others. It will not even allow tax deductibility for the losses incurred while the companies try to find something. In other words, the Government proposes to tax exploration, development and expansion in this country on the ground that it will provide social welfare benefits to those who do not produce anything. All the Government wants to do is to take the money off people who have earned it and give it to those who have not earned it. That is the principle behind the resource tax Bills that are before the Senate tonight.

I cannot be a party to such a thing; I must oppose the legislation. After all, I am part of the development of this country. Since I was a boy I have been used to a sense of excitement when development occurs. We have a marvellous country, a huge country with a wealth of resources, and few people. However, they do have the ability to develop it. All the Government wants to do is to parasite it, blood-suck it, take it to the death and sell it to somebody else. I do not want to be part of that. I want to be part of the development of this country. I want to see success. I want to see mines and wells that are profitable and successful, which provide energy and resources for the country and, out of that, benefits for the people. If the Government taxes companies before profits are made, if it puts a brake on the system, on the incentive to take a donkey and a pick and to ride over the hills looking for a place that is worth mining, to take a risk, it is killing incentive in the country. That is what such a tax is about. The Government is assuming that mines, oil wells and so on exist. They do not exist. People have to go out, find them and develop them.


Senator Tate —Your father was one of the greatest.


Senator SHEIL —My father did it. Even after he retired, I can remember him going out with my mother, catching a big plane to Western Australia, then a smaller plane, and finally getting a donkey and a pick and going into the mountains. They actually found a diamond. I can remember my family saying: `You should not let your mother and father go out there and search for things'. But they were never happier than when they were out doing that. As I said, they found a diamond in the Lenthall River and they traced it back to where it belonged. That spot actually became a diamond mine. It was bought by international interests and lost to Australia. My father fought against that because he wanted that industry for Australia. That industry is now lost to Australia.


Senator Elstob —What was the donkey's name?


Senator SHEIL —That is the sort of question that a socialist would ask. I do not know, but my mother and father went out and did that and I did not stop them because I thought that they were never happier than when they were developing and discovering something. But all the socialists want to do is tax people before they go and do something like that. That is what the Government is doing in these Bills now. It wants to introduce taxes before the companies make the money, and that is a criminal thing to do to Australia. This country has few people, huge resources, enormous areas and neighbours who need our resources and our sources of energy. This Government is stopping this country realising its potential development. I do not want to see that and that is why I do not want to see these Bills coming in and crippling a country that could be great.


Senator Elstob —What do you mean `could be'? It is great.


Senator SHEIL —No, it is not great. We are going well down the ladder. At the turn of the century and soon after, this country's standard of living was at number eight in the world. Now I think it is at about number 23 and it will keep going down while we keep taxing the initiative, the imagination and the resources of the people who want to develop it. We do not have to prostitute it, cripple it and destroy our natural resources, or cut down all the rainforests and mine all the sand resources. There is a case for balanced development. Heaven knows, we should have learned enough by now to be able to develop this country without causing damage to its treasures. We do have treasures in this country, and I am one of the first to recognise that and to want to preserve them.

Speaking again of my father, I must say that he did nothing to damage those treasures. He was brought up with the horrors of Captain's Flat, near Canberra, the pollution of rivers and the desecration of forests. But he did not do any of that. He helped to preserve and build. If honourable senators look at a few of the things that he produced in Australia today they will be very proud of them, including the Somerset dam in Queensland and the Mount Morgan mine. Australia can be proud of those things. I think we can marry technological expertise to the preservation of our environment.

Australia at one time must have been crawling with dinosaurs, but now they are all dead. We did not kill them. Nobody else here killed them. The Aborigines did not kill the dinosaurs, but they are all gone. But that has not altered the progress of human advancement in this country. What can we say about these things? Cataclysms occur and we have never taken account of the fact that man is part of the environment. Sure, while man was clawing a living out of this earth he may have desecrated part of it, but we are more enlightened about that sort of thing and we are taking steps to stop desecration of the environment. We are doing the best we can but no one can stop the development of a country in a balanced economic way, in order to achieve development.

I remember having to go up to Bat Cleft. I will bet that not many honourable senators here have ever heard of Bat Cleft, but it was concerned with the mining of calcium at Mount Etna in Queensland. Everyone was worried about the survival of the bent-winged bat. I must confess that I had never heard of the bent-winged bat, but I thought I had better look at it because it was such an important part of our heritage. So I went up to Bat Cleft. It was quite a difficult climb for a fellow like me up those limestone cliffs that drew blood. One could go up only at night time. At dusk out flew all these bats. I can remember being terrified by the movement around my feet, which happened to be that of carpet snakes and green frogs. As the bats flew out the carpet snakes stood up and waved themselves. This is true, I saw it happen. They caused more desecration than the mining industry ever did.


Senator Gietzelt —They ought to employ you as a script writer. You are doing very well.


Senator SHEIL —This is true. It happened to me when I went up there. Each snake had three bats in its coils and one in its mouth and the frogs jumped on any others which they had knocked down. I can tell honourable senators that the snakes and the frogs caused more damage than the miners ever did.

When I and the environmentalists who were with us went into this subject we found out that the mining company, Central Queensland Lime and Cement, had looked into the history and life cycle of bats more than the environmentalists had ever done. That company had brought out international experts and made a great study of them. It is 10 years since I was at Bat Cleft but the bats are doing better now than they ever did before.


Senator Elstob —I'll bet you were doing some high stepping.


Senator SHEIL —The bats were doing well and they are very adaptable bats. Let us look at what has happened to the flying foxes on the banks of the Brisbane River. There are more flying foxes in Australia now than there were before. That is because of their association with what is going on now. We have only to look at how birds have adapted to man. There are many adaptations which should, must and do take place. I do not want to fight that. I think that we can all get on together.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I do not want to interrupt Senator Sheil but he is getting a long way from the resource rent tax.


Senator SHEIL —I was.


Senator Macklin —The mining of Bat Cleft is within 50 metres and it will be destroyed.


Senator SHEIL —Yes. People have been saying that for 10 years, but that 50 metres is very important.


Senator Macklin —A place for every year.


Senator SHEIL —I will bet that Senator Macklin has never been to Bat Cleft.


Senator Macklin —I have been to Bat Cleft, and done the climb. I am a lot fitter than you are and I did not draw blood.


Senator SHEIL —I doubt that the honourable senator is fitter than me.


Senator Macklin —I have been there at night.


Senator SHEIL —Well, I am surprised. The honourable senator could see the evidence before his eyes that Central Queensland Lime and Cement has done more to preserve the bent-winged bat than environmentalists have ever done. There are more bent-winged bats today than there have ever been. The bent-winged bat is surviving.

Mr President, I am happy that honourable senators have heard my contribution to these resource rent Bills.

Debate (on motion by Senator Jones) adjourned.