Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Tax Laws Amendment (Stronger, Fairer, Simpler and Other Measures) Bill 2011, Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Bill 2011; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011 and the related bills. It is always a joy to hear the government talking about wild, profligate spending and squandering. At the end of 2007, I could have sworn that the then government had this country in great shape, with surpluses running for years and money in the bank—all investments for the future. Then, after the last four years, we suddenly do not seem to have any more money in this country. If anything, this is a government defined by taxing and spending.
We heard the Treasurer talking about DNA. What their DNA really means is that 'tax and spend' is the only way forward. I look upon my position as one of responsibility to my constituents of Cowan—fundamentally, Western Australians. I remember as part of the 2007 election campaign doorknocking in the suburb of Girrawheen, in the south of Cowan. As I was walking along a street not far from the then Blackmore Primary School, I saw an ALP brochure floating across the ground, having been blown from some letterbox—from which it had been ditched, no doubt. On that brochure, I saw lines from the then Labor Premier of Western Australia advocating to local Cowan residents that Kevin Rudd's Western Australian Infrastructure Fund would give back millions of dollars a year to Western Australia. I also remember the television advertisement with Kevin Rudd standing up in Kings Park talking about all the great things he was going to do, including the WA Infrastructure Fund. In fact, that is probably the last time I heard of the WA Infrastructure Fund.
According to Dr Henry—and the government tells us to rely on his word—65 per cent of the mining tax will come from Western Australia. I guess when, back in 2007, Kevin Rudd talked about the WA Infrastructure Fund, which never came to pass, what he was thinking about was some sort of fund generated completely or substantially by what is the property of Western Australia. I really do look upon this attack on Western Australia, this fundamental drawing of so much wealth that belongs to Western Australians, as a betrayal by the Labor Party's MPs and senators, all of whom are clearly very happy with shipping out all that cash from Western Australia. So clearly the priorities are there.
I made the point before that the Constitution actually talks a little bit about this. It talks about who owns what, and the owners of what is in the ground are actually Western Australia, the taxpayers. The people of Western Australia are the owners of this. When the government talks about how all these resources are the property of the nation, they are incorrect. They are actually the property of the Western Australian people.
The Western Australian government has been greatly, and appropriately, opposed to this action by the federal Labor government and their Green partners—and the Independents, but we will get to them shortly. When the Premier has had the temerity to make the point that, in accordance with the Constitution, these resources belong to the state, he has been met with threats of penalties, GST carve-up attack and barring access to federal funding. For trying to enforce the constitutional rights of Western Australia, the Premier is threatened with an even worse result from the GST carve-up than is currently the case. It is an absolute disgrace. I probably need to move on because I do not have the time to cover so much ground.
One of the points is: why is this tax actually required? If we cut down to it, what the government are desperately holding on to now is trying to get to the point where there is actually a surplus in the budget papers for the coming 2012-13 financial year. That is one of the big objectives. Of course, they have a hell of a lot of spending that they want to do. They want to line up and embed a few structural deficit problems into the future. I will also get to that.
What this actually means is that it is a tax, and it is a tax to create the illusion of a budget surplus. Then it will be followed up with spending which actually exceeds the revenue that the tax will take in. By that I mean that at the end of the next decade the bottom line to the budget will actually be $20 billion in the red as a result of this—particularly when you look at how the Assistant Treasurer has talked extensively about the superannuation aspect of these bills. The cost to taxpayers of the proposed increase in compulsory super to 12 per cent is expected to rise to $3.6 billion by the 2019-20 financial year. So the government accepted all that responsibility for future taxpayer generations but, unfortunately, in that same year the MRRT revenue is expected to be just $3 billion. So the budget will be $0.6 billion in the red for 2019-2020 based just upon the superannuation aspect of this. It is no wonder that we then get to $20 billion in the red for this whole tax—this imperfect and, really, incompetent tax.
Again, as I said before, the realities are that this is just a government that is very much into finding a tax—it likes all taxes—and then it is very keen on just shipping it out the door immediately. Unfortunately for Western Australians, the money that is being generated is fundamentally from Western Australia and being spent elsewhere. And by embedding structural deficits in this taxpayer funded pay rise there is trouble ahead for the future.
I look back and remember how Treasurer Costello, the last Treasurer to actually produce surpluses in this country, created the Future Fund, which was meant to look after unfunded liabilities for federal Public Service superannuation. And here we are, going back into that whole arrangement again. I really wonder whether maybe it is the government's plan to create that structural deficit or to further the structural deficit in the budget. Is that about a taxpayer funded pay rise for people or it is part of an early pension payment plan?
I think that the Australian people are pretty smart. When they look at the sort of debt that this country has amassed so quickly under the current government they realise that someone actually has to pay in the future. We do not want to end up being like Greece in the future. We do not want to end up living beyond our means. If you make the case to the taxpayers that there is money to be repaid and that this country has to get back into a surplus—that debt has to be repaid—they are pretty smart and they will realise that maybe we cannot afford to do this sort of stuff. But until there is a change of government I cannot see that anyone is going to be making that case.
I did mention the Independents before. There are, of course, a number of Independents who always back the government, and the government depends on them for their continued survival along with the Greens—who it is completely in bed with. I do note that it has been said that the deals that the government has done with the Independents have cost another $300 million over the next five years. I know that there are another series of committees, reviews and other inquiries. Those are the sorts of things that do thrill the member for Lyne and the member for New England. They do thrive on these sorts of things; it makes them feel like there is some sort of progress actually taking place. Again it comes down to the fact that someone has to pay, and I think I have made the case that it is Western Australia that is definitely doing all the paying in this matter. Really, it is the case that the Labor Party, the Greens and some of the Independents are very much into milking Western Australia and making the most of the other mining-rich states.
It is all flowing one way; there is hardly anything going back the other way. It is no surprise really that this has been greeted with such opposition by the state Premier for Western Australia, the Hon. Colin Barnett, and also by others who see that maybe this whole mining tax is something that should be challenged in the High Court with regard to the Constitution. As I said before, it always comes down to the government saying, 'It belongs to the Australian taxpayers,' when in fact that is not true.
I would also like to speak about the impact on small businesses. I know that this has been raised by other speakers, but the entrepreneurs tax offset legislation that was brought in by the last government gave quite a boost to these very small start-up businesses. I think that some 145,000 businesses will be worse off. These businesses generate very small revenues, but they will not have the tax benefits as a result of changes brought in under the legislation that we are considering tonight.
The government may talk a lot about their one-off tax write-off, but this is something ongoing for a number of the microbusinesses in Australia, which really do represent the entrepreneurial spirit of this country. Those microbusinesses, those neighbourhood start-up businesses, have the same sort of mentality and commitment to success that led the much maligned—by the government—Andrew Forrest to create a great employer of Australians and of Indigenous people.
The government's attack on these microbusinesses and small entrepreneurs in some ways is quite similar to the denigration that the government heaps upon Andrew Forrest and those people who are actually producing something for this country rather than just pursuing the redistribution of income from those who produce.
I am about to run out of time, so rather than go too much further into this I will briefly comment upon the thought by the Prime Minister, which still has to be ratified by the factions at the Labor Party conference, to sell uranium to India. We applaud that because we think it is a good thing for Australia and for India as well. It is a bit of a pity, though, that in August 2009 the now Prime Minister was quoted as saying, 'As a principle, we do not sell uranium to countries that have not signed the non-proliferation treaty.'