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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5528

Mr ABBOTT (2:10 PM) —May I, on indulgence, say yes to those questions that were posed. My question is to the Prime Minister—I do not wish the Prime Minister to be unnecessarily frustrated or agitated—

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will get to his question.

Mr ABBOTT —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to statements from reputable CEOs about his proposed great big new mining tax.

It is almost inconceivable that our industry should find itself so maligned and so grossly misrepresented.

That is from Ian Smith of Newcrest Mining. Sam Walsh of Rio Tinto said that negotiations with industry on the planned tax have been a ‘hopeless process’.

It is difficult to regard the tax proposals as anything other than bad news …

That is from David Knox of Santos. So I ask the Prime Minister: when will he listen to the real concerns of the people running real businesses and dump this really bad tax? Or does he think, like his Treasurer, that these people are either untruthful or ignorant?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I welcome again a question from the Leader of the Opposition about tax reform. The government is about the business of tax reform to get a profits based tax system for the mining industry and to ensure that, as a result of that, we have better super for working families, tax cuts for Australian corporates, tax breaks for Australian small business, and infrastructure investment across all the resource-producing regions of Australia. That means in regions like Gladstone and Mackay, and also in the West where we have got critical communities in need of infrastructure investment. That is why we are engaged in this business of tax reform.

My challenge to the Leader of the Opposition, as he has again asked a question on this, is this: does he have no spine for reform at all? What I have heard in this debate is the Leader of the Opposition simply siding each day in the debate with Clive Palmer, Clive Palmer’s friends and relations, and other people who obviously stand opposed to change in the industry. The Leader of the Opposition also refers to threats to particular projects. He refers to the particular statements of individual chief executives. I draw his attention to the answer I gave yesterday to the member for North Sydney. If you go through one by one each of the projects which have had statements made about them, it is very important that we actually reduce them to some scrutiny. The Leader of the Opposition just referred to Rio Tinto. Again I say to the Leader of the Opposition, bear this fact in mind: on 6 May there was a splash in the newspaper saying:

… Rio Tinto has shelved plans to spend $11 billion expanding its … iron ore operations in Western Australia …

A few hours later—three hours later—we had Rio submitting a notice to the ASX market which included the following statement:

Rio Tinto today confirmed that no decision has been made to shelve any projects in Australia …

I say to the Leader of the Opposition, as he engages in his fear campaign on tax reform: there are two clear paths for the future—either you embrace tax reform around the need for a profits based regime for the future because that is where the bulk of the industry say the reform needs to occur, or you simply stay in Clive Palmer’s corner—Clive Palmer who bankrolls the Liberal Party and the National Party, Clive Palmer who controls the policy direction of the Liberal Party and the National Party, Clive Palmer who dictates the direction of the Liberal Party and the National Party. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to, for the first time, stand up for the national interest rather than Clive Palmer’s interests. We are in the business of reform; the Leader of the Opposition has no spine for reform when it comes to tax reform.