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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 1764

Senator STERLE (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Can the minister inform the Senate of the progress of the government’s consultations with industry over the new resource taxation arrangements?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —I thank Senator Sterle for his keen interest in the mining industry, particularly in our state of Western Australia. I am pleased to report that today the government has taken the next step in implementing resource taxation reforms that will deliver benefits for all Australians. The Treasurer and the Minister for Resources and Energy have announced that the government has accepted all of the recommendations of the policy transition group, chaired by Mr Don Argus. The group was established last year to consult with industry and advise government on the implementation of the proposed reforms.

The group’s 98 recommendations provide a balanced package that ensures Australians receive a fair return from our mineral resources while maintaining Australia’s international competitiveness in the sector. These important taxation reforms will deliver a cut in company tax for all companies, an instant tax write-off for 2.4 million small businesses, a $6 billion investment in regional infrastructure, a boost to superannuation for 8.4 million Australians and superannuation concessions for 3.5 million low-income earners.

Today marks the completion of the policy design phase of the tax. We will now embark on the legislative phase and we will continue to work closely with industry and consult on the draft legislation. The legislation will be released for public consultation by the middle of the year, with us looking to have the legislation in the parliament later in the year. These reforms mean that every Australian will benefit from the development of our non-renewable natural resources. Our actions will ensure that not just the Australians of today but also the Australians of tomorrow will benefit from the resources boom. This is a good outcome for industry and it is a good result for the nation, not just for the resource-rich states but for the whole nation, and allows all Australians to benefit from the boom in the mineral resources sector.

Senator STERLE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister explain to the Senate how communities in the resource richest states of Western Australia and Queensland will benefit from these important reforms?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —This important reform will ensure that all Australians share in the benefits of the resources boom. As a Western Australian I am pleased to say that the resource-rich states of WA and Queensland will also directly benefit from a $6 billion regional infrastructure fund. In WA this government will invest more than $2 billion on critical regional infrastructure like roads, rail and port. Already, the government has committed $480 million to fund the important Perth airport road project, which will help reduce congestion. More than $2 billion will also be invested in Queensland to build roads, rail and port. We have already committed to fund the Townsville ring-road and a major upgrade of the Peak Downs Highway. In addition to funding critical infrastructure, which will enable the Western Australian and Queensland economies to continue to grow, businesses will also benefit from the cut in company tax and an instant tax write-off for small businesses.

Senator STERLE —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate the strength and resilience of the resource sector in Australia?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —I am pleased to inform the Senate that, despite cries to the contrary, the resource sector is both strong and growing. This is clearly demonstrated by a massive pipeline of investments and record profits being reported by a number of resource companies. There is clear evidence that these taxation reforms have not had a negative impact on the sector. Investment is strong, exploration is strong and confidence is robust. Indeed, investment in resource projects now stands at a staggering $132 billion and the sector continues to enjoy very strong profit results, with a $25 billion profit recorded in the September quarter. It is only right that all Australians benefit from this record investment and profit in the resources sector, and that is what these reforms will achieve.