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Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane: AM: 20 March 2012: Minerals Resource Rent Tax; Business tax cuts; Clive Palmer; Fair Work Australia

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Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane, AM

TUE 20 MARCH 2012

Prime Minister

Subject(s): inerals Resource Rent Tax; Business tax cuts; Clive Palmer; Fair Work Australia

HOST: Has the fight been worth it? You and Labor lost a lot of skin. It also contributed to Mr Rudd losing the prime ministership.

PM: Well I'm not accepting the premise of your question about past events in Labor, but of course it's been worth it. Having the mining tax go through and become reality is exactly the right thing for our economy now and for fairness for Australians.

We're going through a spectacular resources boom. That's good for our economy but it also means we need to share the benefits of that boom right around the country. The mining tax will do that with new tax benefits for 2.7 millions small businesses, better super for more than 8 million Australian workers, and we will have a stream of funds to build the infrastructure we need for the resources boom - the ports, the road, the rail.

HOST: This was a relatively simple proposal to redistribute some of the huge profits made by some of these mining companies. Why on earth did it take so long and why did it claim your predecessor Kevin Rudd?

PM: Well once again I'm not accepting the premise of your question but clearly mining companies don't want to volunteer to pay more tax, I understand that, and we've had to work hard to strike an agreement with the biggest mining companies to get all of the policy details right and then to battle it through a Parliament where the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal and National Party saying no to absolutely everything.

HOST: Is it a good policy idea badly executed?

PM: It's a good policy idea which was always going to be controversial, always the subject of push back and opposition and against all of that, we've won through.

HOST: The mining industry ran a fairly devastating campaign against the tax. Would you acknowledge that your government didn't mount an effective defence against that?

PM: Well we're sitting here today and the mining tax is law so I think at the end of what has been a difficult period - we've had to battle hard - but at the end of that difficult period, we've won through for the Australian nation.

HOST: Are you confident that this tax will deliver the kind of windfall that you hope it will deliver for the budget? There are warnings this morning that the impact of this tax will be eroded by the falling commodity prices, the high Australian dollar, the slow growth that's happening in China and the tax breaks that you've agreed to.

PM: Well I think we've got to be a bit practical about all of this. I'm very confident in the Treasury forecasting and the Treasury forecasting shows the amount of money that we will gather from this tax.

I want to say too though, we've been listening for a few years now to people who are saying well you know, a spectacular fall in commodity prices is just around the corner and what have we seen over all of that time? Very, very strong terms of trade and very high commodity prices.

You just used the terminology 'the slow-down in China'. We're talking about a slow-down to a more than 7 per cent growth rate. China is still going to be buying in absolutely record quantities the things that we have to sell out of our resources sector.

So we know the outlook for resources is strong. More than $400 billion of investment in the pipeline. I as Prime Minister routinely go to projects that are worth $20, $30, $40 billion, and when you're standing at one of them, then you're standing at one of them because there are dozens of others either being built now or on the drawing board.

So we know as a nation we're going to be earning a lot out of our mineral wealth. The question is should we share it or should we give it to a privileged few?

I'm for sharing it. Obviously the Opposition is for keeping it in the hands of a privileged few.

HOST: How worried are you by a High Court challenge from Clive Palmer to this?

PM: Look I'm not worried at all. Clive Palmer is a very, very wealthy man. He's a mining billionaire. Well that's good for him but the question is not what is better for Clive Palmer, it's what's better for the Australian nation.

Now he might want to fight the Government's plans to share our minerals wealth with all Australians and to keep more for himself but it's my job as Prime Minister to make sure that in this time of resources prosperity and economic change, we are fairly sharing the mineral wealth in our grounds that belongs to all of us and we're using that mineral wealth to create the economy we will need for the long term, which is a diverse economy.

I do not want the resources boom to hollow out other sections of the Australian economy so we emerge from this one trick ponies - we're only good at resources and we're not good at anything else. That's why we're sharing the benefits through company tax reductions to help other businesses be stronger.

HOST: You've said that this will deliver a tax cut but none of that is guaranteed, especially for big business.

Why aren't you pressuring the Greens on this to deliver something that you've promised because the tax cuts aren't through Parliament yet?

PM: Well we will bring the tax cuts to the Parliament in the budget session. That is the timing that we always promised and I'm intending to be a vocal advocate for these tax cuts.

First and foremost I face opposition from Tony Abbott, who is now so negative that he will say no to things that are part of the Liberal Party's brand.

HOST: But you're the Prime Minister, you made the specific promise, you are in government, the Greens have helped you form that government. Why aren't you pressuring the Greens to deliver on this promise?

Page 1 of 2 Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane, AM | Prime Minister of Australia


PM: Look we will continue the campaign for these tax cuts but I think I am entitled, Sabra, to say today and to continue to say that the remarkable decision here is the decision by Tony Abbott to oppose these tax cuts.

If you ask people, you know, 'What do you think a Liberal Party would do about tax cuts, what do you think the Greens political party would do about tax cuts?' I think most people would say 'Well I think the Liberal Party would vote for them and maybe the Greens would vote against'. That's the kind of brands that those political parties have out in the Australian community and there is Tony Abbott repudiating every bit of Liberal history - and words out of his own mouth - and saying he stands in the way of small businesses and then bigger businesses getting a tax cut.

HOST: AM is broadcasting from the port this morning which services central Queensland's huge coal fields and one of the main complains that you'll hear is that basic non-mining infrastructure has been poor for such a long time.

We all know that Australian State governments don't like raising taxes so they've largely failed in their duty to their citizens to force mining companies to help provide some of this infrastructure.

Do you get frustrated that it's always the Federal Government having to step in here to fix and deliver the infrastructure that regional areas need to deliver on the mining boom?

PM: Look around the country I think state governments have been working with mining communities to meet their infrastructure needs. It's not easy, you know. For mining communities that are seeing spectacular growth, there are stresses and strains from that growth -house prices skyrocket, rents skyrocket.

If you're in the mining sector and earning a big income then you can cope with that. If you're someone who's lived in that township for a long period of time, you're on a fixed income, you're the person who waits on tables at the local café, then all of that is a very big burden for you.

And then you've got the staffing questions. How do you keep the police officers and the childcare workers when they can all go and earn more money in the mines? So state governments, national government, we're all grappling with these questions.

For the national government, part of what we are doing with the mining tax - not only the tax benefits for businesses, the superannuation, but it is backing in infrastructure. Now the hard infrastructure that mining needs, the roads, the rail, the ports, but in stepping up to do more of that obviously we are enabling our state colleagues to then work on some of the things that most concern them like the construction of local schools and police stations.

HOST: The Fair Work Australia report into Craig Thomson's time at the national branch of the Health Services Union is still yet to be released, but we've seen a Fair Work Australia report into the Victorian branch last week.

Would you concede there is evidence of a culture at the HSU which has seen a lack of accountability and the possible misuse of union funds here, members' money?

PM: Look I'm not commenting on something that is going from Fair Work Australia into the Federal Court. That's the report you refer to, it's being referred to the Federal Court as I understand it so it's not appropriate for me to comment on that.

HOST: Have you looked at it? Have you read it?

PM: Look I'm not going to be drawn on commentary about something that's still the subject of legal proceedings.

HOST: So you're not going to say whether you've even glanced it or been briefed...

PM: I'm not going to engage in commentary on something that's before a court.

Page 2 of 2 Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane, AM | Prime Minister of Australia