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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3237

Senator KROGER (3:22 PM) —It is really concerning to note that despite the growing resistance and despair amongst the Australian public—and even amongst those backbenchers who sit behind Senator Wong—she has yet again failed to address any of the numerous concerns in relation to the resource super profits tax. Wouldn’t you have just loved to have been a fly on the wall in this morning’s caucus meeting to hear those backbenchers telling them what is actually happening on the ground and to open their eyes to what is happening?

Senator Wong today mentioned that the RSPT would strengthen the Australian economy, increase productivity and increase mining output. Senator Farrell suggested that it was a fairer tax that would benefit working families. What planet do these people live on and come from? Only a few hours ago, Wesfarmers joined the mining industry’s cause of opposition to the proposed RSPT, saying it would raise sovereign risk and could threaten dividends. The chairman, Bob Every, said that the consultation process with miners should be restarted and the tax completely revamped.

This government are not listening to anyone. To put it in Mr Every’s words:

Any threat to earnings is clearly a threat to the level of dividend we can pay … our shareholders.

Only last month, BHP Billiton made a similar warning that dividend payments could be hit by the proposed tax. Hello? Is anybody home? Is anybody listening? I think we on this side of the chamber know the answer to that, and the answer is clearly no. Notwithstanding that, the government clearly appreciate that there must be a problem and have invested in a $38½ million advertising blitz to address what they have a termed ‘a campaign of disinformation’ about this tax. A campaign of disinformation: how Orwellian can we get?

I suggest to Senator Wong and the kitchen cabinet that they perhaps listen to their backbenchers, go back to their electorate offices, pick up the phone and listen to what their constituents actually have to say. Only two weeks ago I visited some self-funded retirees in Blackburn, which is hardly what one would call a salubrious suburb. It is certainly no millionaires’ row. Those retirees had just sought and got their recent superannuation statements. They found that in only the last three weeks—and this is a modest superannuation fund—their funds had dropped $44,000 in value. Senator Farrell referred to this being beneficial to working families. Here is a couple who have both worked all their lives and were looking forward to retirement. They do not have any options to redress the drop in value of their superannuation funds. They do not have any options to do that because they are now in retirement and have no option to go back into the workforce. So they cannot address the drop in value. Instead, they can only watch the continued decline in the superannuation value that their statements clearly show.

This new tax is a blight on all working families, and to suggest that it is anything otherwise is total denial by this government. It is a knee-jerk measure that will affect many people and many trades all over Australia. We have seen in the electorate of Deakin, where we have a brickworks, that it is affecting their supply chain and it is ultimately affecting those who are purchasing those bricks. So it does affect the extraction industries; it does affect the quarries. And this government fails to recognise the extraordinary detrimental effect it will have. Anyone who does not believe that it will have a negative impact on any of these industries, with significant flow-on effects, has got their head in the sand, and I would suggest that is what this government has.

Question agreed to.