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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 3492

Senator BARNETT (3:22 PM) —I stand today in strong opposition to this proposed mining tax and to respond to Minister Wong’s statements and answers in the Senate today and to respond to Senator Bilyk, who seems to have similar knowledge and understanding of this mining tax to the current federal member for Franklin. Senator Bilyk has indicated today that she thinks some mining companies are actually going to be paying less tax. I would like to know which mining companies want to embrace this great big new mining tax. Can she name them? Can she identify the mining companies in Tasmania or elsewhere that are going to embrace this great big new tax on mining? In fact, we will be the highest taxing country in the world on our mining resources, so how on earth has she come up with that proposition? It seems to be that her understanding and comprehension is similar to that of the federal member for Franklin, Julie Collins, who today at a doorstop was quite embarrassing. Is that right?

Senator Abetz —Very embarrassing.

Senator BARNETT —Yes. I have heard part of that. I have not heard all of it. It has been reported to me that she said again and again that she is still consulting, but she could not explain how the tax works and what level it is. She indicated that consultations were continuing. The fact is that Labor are in complete disarray with respect to this tax, whether it be the Prime Minister, his gang of four, the ministers or the backbench. What we do know is that uncertainty now prevails. Frankly, this tax is wicked. It is an iniquitous tax. The government’s assumption that the increase in tax on smoking is going to decrease smoking but the increased tax on mining is going to increase investment in mining is simply dumb, illogical, irrational and does not make sense.

I want to refer in particular to the KPMG report that has been released recently. Yes, it was funded by the Minerals Council. I say to them: congratulations—well done. It is a very thoughtful report. It says new projects relating to copper, gold and nickel will be economically unviable compared to and relative to the current tax regime. The fact is that it is going to hurt Tasmania big time. Gold, copper and nickel are particularly prevalent in Tasmania. Mining companies on the north-west coast are particularly concerned as a result of that. That report confirms that they will be unviable. This is a tax that is particularly bad for Tasmania. It is bad for the other states, of course, such as Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia et cetera—the mainland states—but for Tasmania this is particularly serious and the consequences need to be fully investigated.

I am very proud of the fact that Grange Resources have come today and represented their views to both the government and the opposition. They have pressed their case and I say congratulations. Well done on doing that. Last week we heard that they had put on hold $75 million of investment in their magnetite operation on the north-west coast. They employ over 600 people in Tasmania. They are the biggest mining company in Tasmania and they are pressing their case in Canberra today. I am not hopeful for a positive outcome but they are pressing their case and the fact is that jobs are on the line. Wayne Bould and Russell Clark have been doing a good job. I see Wayne Bould is in the gallery today, representing his company and those 600-plus workers. What I do know is that they spend $52.3 million in wages every year. I know that they put nearly $200 million directly into the Tasmanian economy every year. The fact is that this company is threatened by this tax. They oppose this tax and on behalf of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team and on behalf of Gary Carpenter, the federal Liberal candidate for Braddon, Eric Hutchinson, Steve Titmus and Jane Howlett, I say we are as one in opposition to this tax. We will fight tooth and nail. We will go up hill and down dale. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that this tax is axed. It is a wicked, iniquitous tax. The fact is that this company deserves a fair go and we want them to invest and to employ more people. They are vertically integrated. They have a 14-year life at least. They have been there for 42 years already. They are a great company doing good things. I rest my case.

Question agreed to.