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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3227


Senator BACK (2:39 PM) —My question is to the Special Minister of State, Senator Ludwig. How does the minister defend his authorisation of $38.5 million of taxpayers’ money to fund an advertising campaign on their proposed great big new tax on mining and, in so doing, bypass the government’s own Independent Communications Committee on political advertising?


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —Can I say at the outset that the decision was made in accordance with the guidelines, but I make no apology for standing up for working Australians—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator LUDWIG —Can I say, Mr President—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Ludwig, you can say.


Senator LUDWIG —I make no apology for standing up for working Australians and small business in the national interest. There is a lot of misinformation being pushed by some of those companies involved, and these myths do need to be cleared up. There is a real hunger out there in the community to know more about these reforms and what they do to strengthen our economy. Our tax plan will ensure a fair share of the proceeds of the resources boom is invested in a stronger economy for all Australians. By replacing royalties with a resource super profits tax we will be delivering higher retirement savings for Australians, more roads, more rail and ports and less business tax and red tape, especially for small business.

Before the last boom Australians got one dollar in every three out of the mining profits through royalties and charges, and at the end of that boom they got one dollar in every seven. The resource super profits tax aims to restore the share of mining profits going to Australians. These are significant reforms. As Cabinet Secretary, the government’s campaign framework provided that I may exempt campaigns from compliance with the guidelines. I accept the Treasurer’s advice that there is an active campaign of misinformation about the proposed changes. Even media commentators agreed, with Laurie Oakes writing on 29 May 2010 that:

The mining industry campaign it is certainly over the top, and difficult to counter.

A tax reform package of this significance would normally involve a public information campaign, and now it is time for the mining industry— (Time expired)


Senator BACK —Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Was the minister aware at the time he approved this pre-election mining tax campaign that advertising agencies had already been approached to develop these advertisements, well before the mining industry expressed any intention of mounting a campaign to oppose this badly constructed tax?


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —I can see that those opposite missed, on 2 May 2010, the Rudd government announced Stronger, Fairer. Simpler: a tax plan for our future. By making our tax system simpler and fairer for all individuals and businesses, our proposed tax reforms will go a long way towards making our economy stronger and preparing us for the years ahead. A reform program of this significance would normally involve a public information campaign. I note that I am not the minister with responsibility for the Treasury, but I would make it clear that reforms of this magnitude would normally include a public information campaign. Of course, those opposite would remember the $400 million GST campaign. This government will go in to bat for the national interest.


Senator Conroy —How much?


Senator LUDWIG —The $400 million GST campaign. This government will go in to bat for the working families who will benefit from increases to their retirement savings. (Time expired)


Senator Sherry —The GST was going to sort all this out.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Debating across the chamber at this time, Senator Sherry, is disorderly.


Senator BACK —I ask a second supplementary question. How can the Australian people trust this government when the minister has authorised $38½ million of taxpayers’ money when he knew firstly that this did not constitute an emergency and that it should have been subjected to independent scrutiny by the government’s own umpire?

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! The time for debating this is at the end of question time. The minister.


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —I can see those opposite are not even bothering to read the statement I tabled in parliament. Let me state from the outset that the grounds of national emergency were not cited in the Treasurer’s request for exemption, were not considered by me and were not stated by me as a reason for granting the exemption in either my letter to the Treasurer or the statement of reasons themselves. I agreed to grant an exemption on the basis of urgency and compelling grounds. There is a lot of misinformation being peddled by some of the companies involved and those myths do need to be cleared up. They seem to be perpetuated by those opposite, who did not bother to read the statement of reasons I tabled.

The fact is that this tax is in the best interests of this nation. We will use revenue from the resource super profits tax to fund tax cuts and promote economic growth. We will increase the superannuation savings of 8.4 million Australian workers. (Time expired)