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Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson: Today: 20 March 2012: Minerals Resource Rent Tax; Carbon pricing; Clive Palmer; Gina Rinehart

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Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Today

TUE 20 MARCH 2012

Prime Minister

Subject(s): Minerals Resource Rent Tax; Carbon pricing; Clive Palmer; Gina Rinehart

HOST: Good morning to you, Prime Minister.

PM: Good morning Lisa.

HOST: Now, the mining tax, this is the one that was part of Kevin Rudd's downfall as Prime Minister. It must make it a particularly sweet victory for you?

PM: It’s certainly been a long battle Lisa and I’m glad we’ve been able to deliver what really is a fairness measure for Australians around the country. We’re going through a remarkable resources boom. Those minerals belong to everyone. They belong to our nation. They belong to each of us and we want to make sure Aussies around the country get their fair share, so the mining companies will pay more tax when they’re profitable and that will be used to back in tax breaks for small businesses - 2.7 million of them around the nation, and to back in more superannuation for more than 8 million workers, which means better retirement incomes, but it also adds to our pool of national savings and that’s good for our economy. And it will help us build some vitally needed infrastructure. Resources booms are hungry for roads and rail and port and we need to do the building of those things in mining communities.

HOST: The Opposition has pointed out that only 30% of small businesses are incorporated and that only half of those actually pay company tax, but all small businesses also be hit by the coming carbon tax. So there’s a bit of an anomaly there.

PM: Well I’m not surprised the Opposition is misrepresenting the benefits of the mining tax. They are standing up for the interests of a privileged few, whereas we are working to share the benefits of the boom right around the country.

We were well aware when we designed this, Lisa, that many small businesses are not incorporated, so there’s two ways small businesses can benefit. If they are a company, they can get a company tax cut. Whether or not they are a company, they can have the benefit of an instant asset write-off. So if you go and buy a new thing your business needs, you can write-off the first $6,500 of it and you can do that every year. We’re also providing some special benefits when you need a new motor vehicle in your small business and we know many people’s small businesses actually consist of the ute, the tools and their skills as they go around the suburbs and towns of our nation plying their trades.

HOST: With the mining tax, you are not at all concerned about killing off the goose that lays the golden eggs, particularly with the slowing down of China?

PM: Not at all concerned. We know that we have more than $400 billion of investment in the pipeline. That’s record-breaking any way you want to measure it. It is an incredible development in our nation's history. This, too, is a profits-based tax, so it’s a better way of taxing mining companies. The average life for a mining company is that there is a long period of time where they are putting in big capital investments and they’re not making any money. Then of course they start getting those vital ores out of the ground and they earn good money, good profits, and it is when they are at their most profitable that they will be paying this tax. It is actually a better way of doing it to ensure that people still want to go mining.

HOST: Small mining companies are unhappy, as you know, and Clive Palmer is threatening to challenge the tax in the High Court. Any concerns?

PM: Well Clive Palmer is a very, very, very rich man. He is a billionaire and good luck to him. But I believe as Prime Minister when I am making policy decisions in Canberra, my job isn’t to make Clive Palmer better off, my job is to make sure that Australians around the nation are better off. And sharing the proceeds of the mining boom by providing tax breaks, firstly to small businesses, and then to businesses generally, and building up our stock of superannuation, is good for everyone in our country, good for our economy and good for fairness.

HOST: Has the Gina Rinehart family soap opera over the divvying up of their billions been a bit of a God-send in helping to paint mining tycoons as rich and out of touch?

PM: I’m not interested in any family matters involving Ms Rinehart. That’s her business. What I am interested in is making sure at this time in our nation's history when our economy is undergoing very profound change that we get all of the policies right so everyone benefits and we are building the economy we need for the future. We've got a spectacular resources boom. We know businesses in other sectors of the economy are doing it tough. It makes sense to take some money from the turbo-charged section of the economy and share it more broadly around the nation, and that is what the mining tax does.

HOST: Prime Minister, we will have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time this morning.

PM: Thank you Lisa.

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