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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3212


Mr FITZGIBBON (HunterChief Government Whip) (11:00): I move:

That this House acknowledges the importance of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax for the funding of important physical infrastructure in capacity constrained mining regions.

The minerals resource rent tax is a government initiative to ensure that the great wealth which flows from this country's mineral resources is equally and evenly shared across the entire Australian community. We will take the superprofits flowing from the mining sector and redistribute them to all Australians—to the people who actually own those resources. We will do so through both the tax and the superannuation systems.

We will also be redirecting billions of dollars of that revenue back into the mining regions from which the wealth comes. I of course represent one of those regions and I am determined that many of the issues which arise out of mining are addressed in the communities of my electorate. Mining has brought great wealth to the region I represent and to regions, such as the Illawarra, represented by some of my colleagues. But it has also brought great pressures. The most obvious are the environmental effects—the impact on air and water quality. But they also include higher housing prices, higher rental prices and even higher grocery prices in areas of my electorate. The growth in mining has also brought about enormous capacity constraints—difficulty in securing child care, for example. Employers in my electorate, particularly those in the non-mining sector, are having an extraordinarily difficult time securing employees. I very much welcome the Prime Minister's announcement today and, if I get a chance, I will have something to say about that issue a bit later on.

The capacity constraints arising out of growth in the mining sector are highlighted by transport issues in my electorate. At peak hour these days, the main road through Singleton is like a car park. That is also true of Maitland and Muswellbrook and many other towns in between. And these car parks are pretty heavily potholed—roads in my region are nothing short of a disgrace. The vineyards of Hunter wine country—the jewel in the Hunter region's tourism crown—have the worst roads in the region, not because of tourism traffic but because those roads are also used by thousands of mineworkers travelling from their homes to the mining sites on a daily basis. In Scone, people travelling on the New England Highway, an extension of Scone's main street, now wait up to eight minutes at the level railway crossing while the coal trains go by. This congestion, these problems in wine country and this difficulty we are having in Scone are all directly related to the growth of the mining sector.

This is what the MRRT is all about. It is about taking money from the superprofits earned by the coalmining companies and addressing the capacity constraints directly caused by the mining sector. This will enable us to deal with issues like the Scone level railway crossing, which requires an overpass; bypasses for Muswellbrook and Singleton; traffic congestion in Maitland and elsewhere; and, very importantly for me, the really serious road quality issues we have in the Hunter wine country.

There is a threat—because this money, this new tax, will effectively offset royalties raised by the New South Wales government and other state governments. For too long, the New South Wales state government has been taking money out of the Hunter region and spending it on roads, tunnels and bridges in Sydney. That is no longer acceptable to us. Barry O'Farrell has decided that he will continue to increase the rate of royalties he is collecting at the state level. This is a great disappointment because it breaches faith with the negotiations the Commonwealth had with the state on the introduction of this tax. I remind the people of my electorate and anyone watching this issue very closely that they can have it one of two ways—they can allow us to raise taxes through the MRRT and return that money to mining regions such as my own or they can sit back and allow Barry O'Farrell to continue to increase royalties so he can spend that money on infrastructure in Sydney. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Stephen Jones: I second the motion.