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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5769

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (2:29 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer guarantee that no worker in the mining industry or their family will be worse off as a result of the government’s great big new tax on the mining industry?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —On this side of the House jobs, jobs and jobs go to the heart of our agenda—jobs, jobs and more jobs. If those on that side of the House had had their way last year, this country would have been in recession. But, because we took action to stimulate the economy and to support demand, jobs in this country have grown by 250,000 over the past year—something everybody on this side of the House is proud of. Where would this country be if those opposite had been in control? We would be in recession.

When it comes to getting the big economic calls right, we on this side of the House got that call right and those on the other side of the House got it dead wrong. When I go to G20 meetings and sit down with finance ministers, they say—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Treasurer was asked to guarantee that miners and their families would not be worse off.

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The point of order is on relevance no matter how he puts it, but he will not debate it. The Treasurer is aware of the requirement to relate his answer to the question.

Mr SWAN —Central to the government’s reform agenda, central to the modernisation of resource taxation, central to the boost for superannuation, central to the investment in infrastructure and central to the cut in company tax is to support jobs and business in this economy. That is what is central to our agenda. I can absolutely guarantee that the rounds of reform that we are putting in place will grow our economy for the long term.

What are we dealing with here? We are dealing with an opposition that mismanaged the last mining boom. As a consequence of their mismanagement, they put upward pressure on inflation and capacity constraints emerged in our economy. We on this side of the House are absolutely intent on making sure that we manage mining boom mark 2 so we maximise all of the opportunities that will flow from that for all of our citizens—and, of course, that includes supporting employment.

Let us take the example of small business. If those opposite had had their way during the global financial crisis, tens of thousands of small businesses would have hit the wall and tens of thousands of people would have lost their jobs. What we are going to do now as the economy recovers is put in place a generation of reforms that will support economic growth, that will deal with capacity constraints, that will invest in infrastructure and that will make all of our companies much more competitive.

What are those on the other side of the House saying about our proposal? They are saying that the mining companies in this country pay too much tax. Effectively they are arguing for a tax cut for the mining industry, plus they are going to increase the corporate rate by 1.7 per cent for all companies over a certain level. So there is a big tax out there, a very big tax slug from those opposite, for Australian corporates. We are asking some of the very profitable mining companies in this country to pay a fair share of their superprofits to the owners of those resources—the Australian people. As the price of commodities goes through the roof, those opposite have the extraordinary proposition that the Australian people should not get a fair share of it.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. He was asked for a simple guarantee—a simple guarantee.

The SPEAKER —On the matter of relevance: the question might be couched in a way so the person asking the question believes that a direct answer or a short answer can be made, but in the past the precedent in this place has been that, because the only standing order that is relevant to answers relates to relevance, if the answer is relevant then it is okay. I wish to stress the point again that allowing a certain degree of debate in the question opens an avenue for things to be opened up. Where either a euphemism or a dysphemism is used for a policy of the government, it does open it up a little bit.

Mr SWAN —We on this side of the House will not sit here and watch those windfall profits walk straight out the door. They have to be used to create employment and support businesses in this country to deal with the challenges that will flow from mining boom mark 2. We will not sit back and let that rip-off continue. We on this side of the House are determined to ensure that a fair system is put in place so we can grow our whole economy, all of our businesses can grow together, we can deal with our capacity constraints and we can support employment, particularly in small business.