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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1183

Minerals Resource Rent Tax

Mr ABBOTT ( Warringah Leader of the Opposition ) ( 14 :00 ): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind her of her declaration at the start of this term that, 'Every time we announce something we properly account for it and we properly fund it.' Given that the mining tax has collected less than 10 per cent of its forecast revenue against potential expenditure associated with it of $15 billion, does the Prime Minister stand by this statement?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): Let me assure the Leader of the Opposition that this government will always properly cost policies and we will identify savings. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that, despite the carry-on on the other side, we have been offsetting new expenditure since 2009. I would remind the opposition of that.

What I would remind the opposition of, as well, is that it is very important, in this year of all years, that Australians are able to compare policies, their merits, their costs and where the savings are coming from. I am indebted to the shadow minister for finance for clarifying, in the Federation Chamber yesterday, on behalf of the opposition:

… every day we hear in the main chamber … and in the other place, cries of 'Where are your costings?'

And he says, on behalf of the opposition:

Of course the costings have been done.

Then he goes on to say:

What no-one knows, including us, is how any of these things can be funded.

I think it ought to be very clear to the shadow minister for finance and to the opposition generally that what we need to do—what everyone needs to do—in this fiscal environment is identify offsetting savings for new expenditure.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: The member for Goldstein is yelling out, 'No, you don't,' which means that he must have a plan to add to expenditure. If his plan is not to add to expenditure then he must identify offsetting savings.

The opposition is engaged in a fiction that this can only be done after the pre-election fiscal outlook is delivered. That is nonsense. Today, if the Leader of the Opposition is in possession of costed policies, he could start identifying the matching savings. If he does not do that transparently then Australians are entitled to conclude that that money will come in secret cuts in the way in which the Newman government has proceeded in Queensland. It is overseen by a commission of audit, but what it equals is cuts that cost jobs, cuts that destroy services, cuts that hit hospitals, cuts that hit schools.

So if the Leader of the Opposition has a new-found interest in budget matters—if you have your costed policies, and your shadow minister for finance says that you do—he should put out the matching savings and allow Australians to judge them.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:03): I have a supplementary question for the Prime Minister. What changes to the mining tax does the Prime Minister have in mind to address the revenue shortfall?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:03): I dealt with this matter yesterday when asked about the minerals resource rent tax. I refer the Leader of the Opposition to my remarks yesterday. I refer him to the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, and he can have a look at the figures himself.

I also say to the Leader of the Opposition that behind all of the political skirmishing about the minerals resource rent tax that the Leader of the Opposition engaged in yesterday is a fundamental policy question that the Leader of the Opposition needs to answer. Does he believe that it is better for mining companies to be taxed at the height of their profitability or does he believe in a royalty system which hits mines in set-up, which hits mines when they are not profitable—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is question time, when the questions are asked to the Prime Minister; it is not for her to ask questions of the opposition.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will resume her seat.

Ms GILLARD: I thought this was a time when people showed an interest in the great public policy questions facing the nation. But clearly, from the point of view of the opposition, I have that wrong. The public policy question behind all of this is: is it better for our resources sector to be taxed at the height of their profitability or to have state based royalties that hit them in set-up, hit them when they are not profitable and can make projects unviable? That is the public policy question, and that is the question the Leader of the Opposition should direct his attention to.

Would he just continue to tick state based royalty increases or not? That has implications for jobs and growth, and he should answer that question rather than engage in political byplay. (Time expired)