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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 2195


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (21:16): Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of standing order 142 be suspended as would prevent further consideration of the bill without limitation of time.

The mining tax is a bad tax. It is bad for the economy, it is bad for jobs and it is bad for investment in the mining industry. It will hamper Australia's competitive advantage when it comes to attracting investment into Australia and, of course, above all, this is a tax package which is bad for the budget. Only the Labor Party could come up with a multibillion-dollar new tax which actually leaves the budget worse off. This of course brings us to what the whole purpose of this tax is, and that is to try and fill a Labor Party budget black hole.

We have on the other side of the chamber a Minister for Finance and Deregulation who, in the first 12 months that she was in the job, presided over a $25 billion blow-out in the budget deficit. This is a Labor government which spends too much, is full of wasteful spending and is always casting around for yet another tax grab. Before this Labor government has even collected one cent of mining tax revenue it has already committed more in spending than what the tax is going to collect.

Mr President, the Senate needs more time to debate this flawed tax. This is a bad tax which was negotiated in a deeply flawed process. This is a tax that was negotiated quite inappropriately by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer behind closed doors, exclusively and in secret, with the managing directors of the three biggest mining companies. This is not tax reform; this was a political fix after a significant stuff-up by the worst Treasurer that the Commonwealth has ever seen in the history of Federation.

This is a bad tax that needs further scrutiny by the Senate. It is a tax which will not raise the revenue that the government says it will. That is why this government continues to keep the mining tax revenue assumptions secret. This is a tax in which the government has already spent way more on related promises than the tax will raise. That is, of course, why this government is not prepared to give the Senate full information and full details about the cost of all of the related measures.

This is a tax, we have to remember, which started with the Henry tax review process. The Henry tax review process was one that was supposed to deliver, as the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said at the time, a root and branch reform of our tax system to make it simpler and fairer. Instead what we got was something that manifestly makes it more complex and less fair. This was a tax that was supposed to help the smaller and new mining projects—to make the tax system less distorting to make sure that they had a better chance of success, a better chance to grow and a better chance to make a contribution to our economic growth into the future. But, of course, it does the exact opposite.

This is a tax which is not only more complex and less fair; it is a tax that is more distorting than the status quo and which will make it harder for the smaller and newer mining projects to become the success stories of tomorrow. Something that this government does not understand in its high-taxing pursuit is that less government spending and lower taxes actually help us grow the economy more strongly, which will lead to more government revenue without the need to charge more taxes.

This government has gone from stuff-up to stuff-up with this mining tax. The whole mining tax has become a dog's breakfast because the Treasurer, Mr Swan, did not do his homework to start off with. The Treasury secretary Ken Henry said to him: 'You make sure you negotiate with the states; you make sure you've got the states on side. Talk through and negotiate the federal-state financial relations implications of this.' He did none of that. This stuff-up, the dog's breakfast that is the mining tax, is Mr Swan's personal responsibility.

Of course, it was Mr Rudd who lost his job. It was Mr Rudd who got the boot and Mr Swan, who was actually personally to blame for this dog's breakfast that is now in front of us, got a promotion. That is the way things work in the Labor Party these days: the worse you are, the faster you get promoted. The more incompetent you are, the faster you get promoted.

This mining tax package needs and deserves more scrutiny by the Senate. The fact that the gag is about to be moved by this Labor-Greens alliance is an absolute disgrace. The way this dog's breakfast of a mining tax was negotiated by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, without any involvement of officials, directly with the managing directors of the three biggest mining companies, is a national disgrace and should not be allowed to stand as a precedent for the way a tax is designed in Australia. Serious tax reform requires a more professional, more considered and more open, transparent and inclusive process.