Monday, 27 May 2013
Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013; Second Reading
Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, before I start in response to the member for Hunter—and there is plenty to respond to—I convey to your constituents and to those of the member for Corio my disappointment, regret and sympathy with regard to the events of last week. Anyone who has an interest in the car industry—and I am a passionate advocate of that industry, having been the minister that gave that industry $4.3 billion—would feel great sadness to see what happened last week. I am also a great Ford supporter. I backed people like Dick Johnson, who raced those cars with great success. Please pass on my sympathies to those people whose jobs have disappeared as a result of that announcement.
I have known the member for Hunter for a long time. I always enjoy his speeches. He leaves gaps everywhere that you could run a whole back line through, let alone half of the State of Origin team which is probably going to thrash the Blues again this year. The reality is the first gap was that he said the resources covered by the MRRT are owned by Australian taxpayers. They are not. They are owned by the people of each of the states where those resources reside, and that is the stark difference between the PRRT and the MRRT. I am happy to take on the member for Hunter on this topic.
The reality is that offshore oil and gas resources were covered by PRRT under our government. This tax was introduced by a Labor government under Bob Hawke after much consultation, unlike this tax. In fact, the resources covered by the PRRT in its original form were Commonwealth resources. The member for Hunter would have been quite right in that instance to talk about the ownership by all Australians of those resources, but that is not the case with coal and it is not the case with iron ore. I see a couple of good members from Queensland in the chamber and they know full well, as does the member for Blair, that coal resources in Queensland belong to the people of that state. They do not belong to the Commonwealth. But here is a government that looks at something and says, 'How can we tax that?'
This amendment is aimed at protecting taxpayer confidentiality. We need to maintain that. It is intended that the amendments will permit taxation officers to disclose such information without committing an offence should the disclosure have the effect of inadvertently identifying the taxpayer. We need to expose this tax for what it is. This is a wasteful, extravagant government desperately trying to use the resource industry as its own private ATM, an automatic teller machine. Every time it goes out and spends more money than it has, this government goes to the teller machine and that teller machine is the resource industry in Australia.
Unfortunately I was not here earlier today—I had leave, along with the Minister for Resources and Energy, to address a huge international gas conference in Brisbane. The message from that conference is that if you keep taxing Australian resource companies they will simply go somewhere else. Despite the words of the member for Hunter, the reality is that last week we saw numbers published that showed $150 billion worth of projects have been canned. I wonder why. Every time the resource industry looks up there is a new tax, a new regulation and a new piece of red tape. Why is it so? Firstly, because the government spends more than it earns and, secondly, because the government constantly has to bow down to its Greens alliance partners to maintain its place in government.
In terms of the MRRT we have seen a huge shock to the international investment community. That community looks at Australia and wonders why we would do this to ourselves. Why in an internationally competitive resource industry would we make investment here so difficult? Why would we single out the resource industry for taxation over and above what it is already up for? There is a misconception on the government side of the House that the resource industry is not paying enough tax. That industry is already paying 46c in the dollar, half as much again as other companies in Australia. Most companies in Australia pay 30c in the dollar, but the resource industry is already paying 46c in the dollar. But along comes the Treasurer, with a huge hole in his budget, and who does he turn to? The resource industry, not just taxing them but vilifying them, attacking individuals, saying to the resource industry investment community globally: 'We don't want you here, but if you come here, we're going to tax the living daylights out of you.'
But only the Treasurer could design a tax that does not collect any money. Not only has he turned away and sent to other countries potential investors in the iron ore and coal industry and in resource industries in general, but he has also designed a tax which burdens even those people who do not have to pay the tax. The government has fought tooth and nail every step of the way to keep the details of the mining tax behind closed doors. We know why. We know that, apart from the investment impact and why we have seen $150 billion worth of projects cancelled in Australia, the assumptions on which this tax are based are completely flawed. Why wouldn't the government reveal the true modelling behind this tax?
This tax, the MRRT, has been a complete disaster from the outset. In true form, as we have seen from the Labor Party, time and time again, the estimates for the return from this tax continually gets revised down. This year's budget revised down those estimates yet again to $3.3 billion. When you consider the original figure was $22 billion and in fact the tax only raised $184 million in the March quarter and $126 million in the previous quarter, the reality is that we know all this tax is doing is damaging Australia's international investment profile.
The other part which is a major concern is that, as is their wont, as is their record, this government always spend the money before they get it. We have seen a whole raft of policies rolled out which are completely unfunded. So we sit here and wonder why we have got a $19 billion deficit this year on top of all the other deficits we have seen, and the reality is that it is because this government, first, cannot manage money, second, spends beyond its means and, third, never gets the money that it originally budgets for. Australia relies heavily on the resources sector. We need to ensure we do everything we can to maintain the investment flow in Australia.
If the Treasurer had been at the conference that the minister for resources, energy and tourism and I were at today, he would have heard the message that Australia is no longer the premier destination for investment. No longer is it a fait accompli that people will come here and empty their wallets and their bank accounts to build resource projects here. No longer will we see resource companies seeing Australia as a destination of choice. Why? Because we see new taxes almost on a weekly basis, certainly regularly. Changes to the taxation system are happening which disadvantage investors here in Australia. In the last budget there were changes to the thin capital rule, changes to the exploration allowances—all of that sends one message, and that message is that this government cannot manage its money, this government puts in place taxes which deter investment. Those taxes do not work, but the sum result of all of that is that Australians working in those industries lose their jobs. This MRRT was a crazy tax to start with and we will repeal it if we win government in September.