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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3221


Senator CASH (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Wong. Can the minister inform the Senate of the current and proposed mining projects in Western Australia that were actually consulted prior to Labor’s announcement to determine the impact on them of the great big new mining tax?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —As the senator would be aware, the Henry tax review undertook extensive consultation with the business sector during the consideration of the various matters that the Henry tax review went to. I think it is worth recalling that there were a number of companies who expressed a view publicly about the merits of a profits based regime as opposed to a royalties based regime. That issue, I think, has been on the public record. The reality is that this is a tax which only cuts in when a company is making a super profit—


Senator Cash —Mr President, I rise on a point of order in relation to relevance. I asked the minister a very specific question. I would like to know the names of the current and proposed mining projects in Western Australia that the Labor Party consulted to determine the impact on them prior to the announcement of your great big new tax. I would ask you, Mr President, to draw the minister to that fact.


Senator Ludwig —The minister has been answering the question. An issue which has now arisen, which I draw your attention to, is that the point of order has been used improperly simply to restate the question. The minister heard the question. The minister was answering the question. It is inappropriate to gain emphasis by restating the question in a point which is completely outside of what is reasonable. If there were a point of order, it should be succinctly stated.


The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, you have a minute and seven seconds remaining to answer the question. I draw your attention to the question.


Senator WONG —One thing I can assure Senator Cash is that we consulted more people through this process than Mr Abbott consulted in relation to the great big new tax on companies to pay for the paid parental leave plan imposed without reference to your party room or shadow cabinet. The reality is that the Henry review conducted extensive consultations with industry. As a senator for Western Australia, the senator would know that there has been discussion for some time in relation to whether or not a profits based regime would be more meritorious than a volume—


Senator Cash —Mr President, a point of order in relation to relevance—short, sharp, straight to the point—the minister is being completely irrelevant to my question.


The PRESIDENT —The minister has 27 seconds remaining.


Senator WONG —Again, the answer to the question is that the Henry tax review did consult with the industry in relation to a range of issues. This is the government’s response to one of the recommendations of the Henry tax review. We are going through a range of discussions with industry in relation to the implementation of this tax reform.


Senator CASH —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What negotiations, if any, occurred with the Minerals Council of Australia and the chambers of minerals and energy in each of the states and territories prior to Labor announcing its great big new tax on mining?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —As I have said to you, the Henry tax review consulted. I am not the minister responsible for that tax review. If I can find any further information about the nature of their consultations I will provide it, if it is relevant. I would also make the point that the government has said that it will consult with industry on the finalisation and implementation of the resource super profits tax. We have appointed the Resource Tax Consultation Panel to conduct consultations with the industry. I am sure that companies in the minerals sector are amongst those with whom the government is consulting. As the Minister for Resources and Energy has made clear, the panel is currently consulting with a range of companies. The government is intent upon consulting in relation to the implementation of this tax reform, but we are also committed to this reform. It is about building a stronger and fairer economy. (Time expired)


Senator CASH —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Prior to Labor’s announcement of its great big new tax on mining was the relevant minister consulted, was the full cabinet consulted or was this, as Mr Crean has suggested, just another decision made by Mr Rudd’s so-called ‘gang of four’?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —I think that is a question that asks me to disclose cabinet processes and I will not do that. I will say this: we on this side stand for a fairer share for working people—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, resume your seat. Order! When there is silence we will proceed.


Senator WONG —As I said, Senator, through you Mr President, we know that the opposition in this debate are prepared to stand for a set of vested interests of a handful of mining companies. They are not interested in the reform of strengthening the economy. They are not interested in ensuring tax reductions in the company tax rate for the non-mining sectors of the economy. They are not interested in increasing the share of superannuation to Australian working families. We on this side stand for this; you on that side stand for the vested interests of a few.