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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3352


Senator BARNETT (8:01 PM) —I am pleased to stand in the Senate in strong opposition to the Rudd Labor government’s mining tax. I specifically refer to some activities that will be occurring in Parliament House tomorrow and make reference to the Mining Tax Forum held in Launceston just Monday last week, 7 June. It was organised by me and my office on behalf of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team with the support of Steve Titmus, the federal Liberal candidate for Bass, and was a very successful forum, with some 50-plus people there expressing their views and opposing in different ways and means the Rudd Labor government’s mining tax.

The forum certainly confirmed in the minds of everyone at the forum that the tax was a great threat to jobs in Tasmania. It would increase the cost of living and diminish retirees investments. The participants were appalled by the Rudd government’s failure to consult local mining companies and others directly affected. The mining and minerals processing industry in Tasmania is worth some $2.45 billion, employing more than 3,300 people directly and contributing nearly 50 per cent of our annual exports. They are a key contributor to our economic growth and development in Tasmania. They are a key contributor to jobs. This mining tax is an attack on those jobs. Why would this government want to proceed and make sure that Australia’s resource industry will be the highest taxed in the world under the Rudd Labor government?

At the forum we had some excellent contributors and speakers. Stuart Ritchie, who is the Acting CEO of the Cement Industry Federation, spoke. He is also the Sustainability Manager for Cement Australia. They, of course, are based in Railton in the Lyons Electorate in North-West Tasmania, employing over 120 people there. They have serious concerns that they have been caught up in all of this, and those concerns need to be addressed. Eric Hutchinson, the federal Liberal candidate for the Lyons Electorate, is very concerned and is furiously lobbying to make sure that this tax is not implemented. Dr Alan Moran, Director of the Deregulation Unit of the Institute of Public Affairs, presented a paper. He could not actually be there in person but made a paper available. Wayne Bould represented not only the Minerals Council of Tasmania but also Grange Resources as its Chief Operating Officer. Wayne is a fifth-generation Tasmanian. He loves his state, he loves his family and he loves his job and his company. He and the CEO, Russell Clark, will be here in Parliament House tomorrow, pressing their case for change in this iniquitous tax.

Robert Wallace, the CEO of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke at the forum in strong opposition to this tax. The ‘I’ in the TCCI, he said, is ‘industry’. He made their position very clear. He said:

The tax will not be confined to the minerals sector …

He said there would be:

Likely negative and significant second-round consequences in related businesses and regions across Australia—

and he noted the KPMG report, which had a scenario which showed that nickel, copper and gold mines would become economically unviable relative to the status quo under this proposed tax. This is particularly troublesome for Tasmania because those particular minerals are prevalent in Tasmania. The KPMG report confirms that this will be particularly damaging to Tasmania.

In addition to that, we had Donald Beams. Donald Beams and his brothers are salt-of-the-earth people. I was down there the other day at Beams Quarry in the Tamar Valley, not far from Exeter—Flowery Gully, in fact. Ian Beams was there. They employ 50-plus people. Can you imagine? They will be directly affected as a result of this tax. It is a great shame because they have been there since around the mid-1940s and it is a family business. There are a lot of people who are supported in that rural and regional part of Tasmania, and Donald Beams presented a very good paper on the impact of this on him, his business and, indeed, the farming community, because they mine and quarry limestone as well. They provide that service and that product to the farmers and the rural and regional parts of Tasmania.

We had Jan Davis, the CEO of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association. Jan did not pull her punches. She certainly made her opposition very clear in terms of the downstream processing consequences. It will not just be the mining industry that is affected; it covers the farming industry and the farming communities. She even indicated that she has asked whether it impacted other extractive industries. She nominated rock lobster and the abalone industry. She had not had a response. That is not good enough, and I hope that is sorted out promptly. It is a big issue.

Bob Mainwaring is president of the Association of Independent Retirees for northern Tasmania, a very important organisation. This tax is a triple whammy. It is a tax on jobs and it is a job destroyer. It increases the cost of living and not just for the average Joe or just for the farming communities and the agriculture sector but also across the board. Independent retirees and those who have funds in superannuation have already been detrimentally affected big time. They have lost tens of thousands of dollars as a result of this shocking decision by government. The mismanagement and maladministration of our economy seem to be getting worse, not better, under the Rudd Labor government.

The Grange Resources business provide value-adding. They employ between 500- and 600-odd people on the north-west coast. They are clearly the largest private sector employer in north-west Tasmania and one of the largest in Tasmania. It is a Savage River project operating a magnetite mine covering 2,400 hectares in northern Tassie, comprising several open pit mines, concentrator and other associated infrastructure at Savage River. It has an 83-kilometre slurry pipeline to Port Latta in north-west Tasmania and a pellet plant and dedicated port facilities at Port Latta. The operation currently produces around 2.3 million tonnes of pellets per annum with a small amount of concentrate and chips also sold under contract. The current mine plan provides for a life of 14 years and uses 70 million tonnes of the estimated reserve. Utilising the entire ore reserve, Savage River has a mine life in excess of 25 years.

Grange is also examining the potential for expanding the operation to 2.9 million tonnes per annum of concentrate. Minimal capital expenditure would be required as the concentrator and pipeline were originally constructed for this capacity. It is a modern mining facility with $100 million invested in new equipment in calendar year 2008, but the sad thing is that they had $55 million of investment ready to go and now that has been put on hold. These are issues that are very relevant to Grange Resources and north-west Tasmania. They are going to be copping it in the neck as a result of this tax. The value-adding benefits for Grange Resources and for the community should not be underestimated.

They will be here for meetings tomorrow with both the government and the opposition and I think it is excellent that they are coming from Tasmania to Canberra to press their case. I, with other members of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team—certainly senators Colbeck, Parry, Abetz and Bushby—will be pressing the case. For the north-west coast, I know that Garry Carpenter, the new federal Liberal candidate for the Braddon electorate—who was only selected on Saturday—was quick to see the iniquity of this wretched Labor mining tax—the great big tax on mining. He said, ‘I will be fighting tooth and nail,’ against this great big new supertax on mining. I say congratulations to him because he is out of the blocks. He will be consulting and talking to those on the north-west coast and putting his best foot forward for and on behalf of the people of Braddon so that they get proper representation rather than just a simple yes to those in Canberra. This tax needs to be axed and it needs to be axed fast; Labor must dump it. It is certainly damaging not just the industry but also the wider economy and this cannot continue. They are advertising using taxpayers’ money to say how good it is. That is a shame; it should be withdrawn; that is taxpayers’ money. It should be paid for by the Labor Party. In conclusion, this mining tax is a wretched tax and it should be dumped.