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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 8193

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (15:16): It is always interesting to follow a coalition senator when they make some grandiose statements, and you look around and see some of their colleagues looking at their feet in absolute embarrassment. I am sure the senators from Western Australia were not supporting Senator Ryan—

Senator Cash: Your colleagues aren't even here!

Senator MARSHALL: Well, that saves me being looked at in embarrassment, Senator Cash. I will not have the same embarrassment that Senator Ryan engaged in, even if indeed my colleagues feel the need to do so. Running the line that state based royalties imposed by Queensland and Western Australia will actually improve the GST take from Victoria is something Victorians might appreciate, but I am sure Senator Back and Senator Cormann are probably a little bit more concerned about that than you, Senator Ryan.

Nonetheless, let us talk about Senator Ryan's closing comments about where the efficiency of these taxes lies, and let me make this very clear to anyone who is listening. A decade ago, the Australian people received $1 back on every $3 made from our natural resources—the natural resources that are owned by the Australian people. Those resources are licensed to large companies to extract, but the resources themselves are owned by the Australian people. A decade ago, the Australian people got $1 back for every $3 made from our natural resources. In 2010, that figure had dropped to a $1 return on every $7 that the industry made from those resources.

What this government quite rightly tried to do was to reform that tax base system and move it away from a volumetric tax, where people started paying tax in a royalty situation—a very inefficient tax. They started paying tax for the extraction of stuff from the ground instead of it being based around the profits. As companies grew and developed those resources and made super-profits, that was when the money should have flowed back to the government to be used on behalf of the Australian people, not the other way around. You should not tax people upfront. It was an inefficient tax and I think most people, when they are seriously engaging in this debate, concede that moving to a profit based tax system is a much more efficient way to tax companies than the volumetric or royalties system that this tax has replaced.

Let us ask the question: what are the opposition actually saying here? Is the government being criticised because mining companies super-profits are too low or is it because they are not being taxed enough? It is a very confused message that we over here get from the coalition when they say, 'The problem is that the tax did not raise enough money,' when all their argument for the last 12 months has been that they are going to repeal this tax, it is a terrible tax and it is going to drive industry out of business. It is an absolute nonsense. I am sorry Senator Cormann has left, because we are actually taking note of answers to questions he and Senator Edwards asked, and I want to quote what Senator Cormann said on 19 March 2012. He said:

We have a high-spending, high-taxing government that, rather than wanting to support those parts of the economy that need help, wants to slow down the fast lane.

So which is it? Is the government taxing too much, or not enough? I ask Senator Cormann: 'Which is it? What are you criticising the government for now?' A super-profit tax, as we know, only applies when super-profits are being made, so what is his problem? Is he saying that we should be taxing lower profits, or is he saying we should be taxing whatever profits those companies make? He really cannot have it both ways. There is no clear or concise message or criticism coming from the opposition on this at all.

Only two months ago, on 23 August 2012, Senator Edwards, one of the others asking questions today, was blaming the carbon price and the minerals resource rent tax for the decision by BHP not to proceed with the expansion at Olympic Dam in his home state of South Australia. But the very next day the chief executive of BHP, Marius Kloppers, was telling journalists that the carbon tax and the minerals resource rent tax had nothing to do with that decision. So here we have another example of coalition senators getting up and saying whatever they like because they will say and do anything to try to undermine good government policy and the introduction of it. Like Mr Abbott, Senator Edwards has absolutely no credibility on this issue. The coalition have no credibility on this issue, and they support every Liberal state government putting up the tax that they criticise— (Time expired)