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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 3488


Senator MARK BISHOP (3:07 PM) —Senator Cormann runs some criticisms of the government, but the government’s position on the mining superprofits tax has been absolutely clear and unequivocal since it was first announced many weeks ago. There has not been one iota of change. There has not been one iota of deviation. Why is that? It is because the policy, as announced by the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers at the time, was an efficient policy, it was a well-thought-out policy and it was a policy that was good for the mining industry, good for the mining states, good for investment and good for the future of this country. It was an excellent job that was done at that time.

Why do I say those things? I say them for this reason. What have the mining industry and major corporates been asking for year in, year out? They have been asking for two particular things: (1) a profits based taxation regime and (2) for taxation and other measures to be levied on a project or subindustry basis. They have been asking, firstly, for a profits based tax so that more profits are paid to government as the enterprise or project becomes more successful and, secondly, for taxation to be levied on an industry or subindustry basis. How do we know they have been asking for that? We know that because it was in their submissions to the Henry review. That has been in their submissions to numerous Senate committee inquiries. There was nothing shy or backward about it. Publicly and openly that has been their position—and the position of the Minerals Council for many years.

What did Minister Ferguson repeat yesterday when he discussed the government’s current position, which is the same as it was six weeks ago, with respect to taxation in the mining industry? He said, ‘We’re going to give to the mining industry what it wants, a profits based tax. We’re going to have a different regime for different sectors,’ and he outlined three sectors by way of example: firstly, the coal gas development up in Central and Northern Queensland; secondly, low-value industries where you turn big rocks into small rocks and use them for aggregate and the like on roads; and, thirdly, mineral and metal type industries, which have been around for donkey’s years in this country.

Over the last 30 or 40 years Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory have gone ahead in leaps and bounds as more and more projects have come online, more and more sites have been developed, more and more investment has been made, more and more projects have gone ahead and more and more employment has been created. Minister Ferguson said in an interview yesterday that we were happy to accede to the wishes of the mining industry as they have expressed them publicly: a profits based taxation regime and a regime based on individual subunits within the overall mining industry.

What also did we offer? We offered, by way of negotiation, generous transitional arrangements. Of course, every company, Australian or foreign, that wants to invest in this country seeks to have negotiations with the appropriate level of government, and they always discuss the appropriate regulatory regime, the appropriate taxation measures and the timing of taxation measures. So we said, ‘Yes, that’s legit, that’s upfront and we will accommodate your desires.’

In terms of the existing regimes, everyone in this chamber and out there in the industry knows that there has been a boom in the mining industry in the last 10 or 15 years, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland and latterly in South Australia. The state governments have been less than efficient in garnishing the appropriate amount of resources from their state based royalty regimes. They are now belatedly, latterly, seeking to increase it by 1½ or 2½ per cent, but still the lion’s share goes missing. And who should have that lion’s share? The lion’s share, an appropriate share, should go to the Australian people. Those resources are in the ground, and of course they are invested in the Crown in respect of each state

What are the states doing now? They are turning themselves into mere convenient administrative subunits. One only has to look at what happened in the health and hospitals negotiations, where they gave away the one thing they have been seeking since Federation, an independent taxation regime. (Time expired)