Senate debates

Thursday, 20 September 2012

2:11 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. I refer the minister to reports today that BHP Billiton has confirmed that it will not proceed with the planned Red Hill coalmine near Moranbah in Queensland, which follows previous announcements that it will not proceed with the $30 billion Olympic Dam mine expansion in South Australia or the $20 billion outer harbour expansion in Port Hedland in Western Australia, as well as announcements that 1,700 jobs have been lost across several BHP Billiton mines over the past six months. Will the government now concede that its carbon tax, its mining tax, its massive increases in red and green tape, increased union militancy on its watch and all of its other anti-mining policies and anti-mining rhetoric have hurt Australia's economic fortunes?

2:12 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I welcome Senator Cormann's question. I am sure Senator Wong is a bit jealous that she did not get this question. I absolutely reject the implications in the Senator's question. He seeks again to talk down the Australian economy. He seeks to talk down the success of the mining industry and the success of the oil and gas industry. For purely political motives, he seeks to destroy confidence in the sectors which are actually helping to grow the Australian economy and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for Australians.

It is the case that a number of companies have taken decisions which have delayed the massive expansion which is occurring more generally in the oil and gas industry and in the mining industry.

However, all the major reports continue to highlight the record amount of investment in Australia. The ABS results released on 3 September showed a major increase of 34 per cent in Australian mineral exploration. The last Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics Mining industry major projects report, in May, showed Australia had 98 resources industry projects at an advanced stage of development valued at A$260 billion. Since the introduction of the MRRT and the PRRT, resources companies have ticked off billions of dollars worth of new spending. So, for the couple of examples the senator uses, he fails to recognise the many other projects that are going ahead and the enormous investment pipeline that is driving enormous economic growth in the Australian economy.

2:15 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the clear warnings from the mining industry about the increasing costs of doing business in Australia, warnings of slower growth in China and a worldwide slide in commodity prices—

Senator Wong interjecting

why is Labor still pressing ahead with the world's biggest carbon tax and a mining tax which, on top of everything else, has provided a direct federal government incentive to state governments around Australia to increase their royalties on iron ore or coal?

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Wong, you will need to withdraw that. That is disorderly.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Cormann interjecting

Order! Senators Cormann and Wong, it is disorderly to debate across the chamber. The minister.

2:16 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

As I indicated earlier, Mr President, Senator Wong was very keen to answer this question and was very keen to assist me in responding. Again, I reject what Senator Cormann tries to indicate. The reality is, the only issue the mining industry have raised with me in the last few weeks about taxation is the royalty increase in Queensland and the threat it provides.

Senator Cormann, you may try this rubbish argument of saying, 'When the National-Liberal government increases royalty it is all our fault,' but your credibility is in shreds. You try to argue that a superprofits tax is bad but that a tax on royalties, a tax on companies that may not be making a profit even, is a good thing. That is not what they are saying. They are saying that the basis of our superprofits tax is a much fairer way of levying tax on them than the massive royalties that are impacting on mining in Queensland, implemented by a Liberal-National government. (Time expired)

2:17 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With mining companies pulling back for multibillion-dollar investments, when will the government finally listen and scrap its carbon tax and its mining tax so that confidence can be restored in our important mining sector so that our economy can grow more strongly again?

2:18 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Fundamentally at the heart of Senator Cormann's question is a falsehood. There is record investment in oil and gas and in mining in Australia, a huge—

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Have you spoken to them recently?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator, look at the figures. Instead of your unrelenting ideology, have a look at the facts, read the reports, talk to the mining industry. There is record investment, record pipeline and enormous employment growth in the mining industry and in oil and gas. The commodity prices have come off, and business has—

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Evans, resume your seat. When there is silence we will proceed.

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Relentlessly talking down the economy in this country by the Liberal and National parties is absolutely bad for confidence, bad for jobs. What we know is that there is record investment, a record pipeline of coming investment, and the mining industry remains strong. Commodity prices are impacting on decisions at the moment but the investment they have made will see production at very high levels for many— (Time expired)