Thursday, 3 June 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the announcement this morning by mining company Xstrata that it has suspended $586 million of current investment in two major mining projects in Queensland as a result of his great big new tax, putting at risk total capital investment of over $6.4 billion and 3,250 jobs in regional Queensland. Given the statement of Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, who said, ‘This is no longer of war of words; this is causing real pain to Queensland families,’ and given Xstrata’s statement that neither of these two projects would be viable if the new tax were imposed, will the Prime Minister now listen to these warnings and dump this tax before any further damage is inflicted on the Australian economy? Why did the Prime Minister gutless out of fully debating this issue, first in response to me and second in response to the member for Kennedy?
In fact, this is such a matter of national importance to the opposition that their stated matter of public importance today is about the government’s failure on people smuggling. Those opposite, frankly, speak again with two voices on these matters. The Leader of the Opposition, come the end of each sitting week, feels the need always to move a censure—and not just at the end of a sitting week; in fact, according to my numbers, every third day on average since he has been Leader of the Opposition there has been a censure, a suspension or some other parliamentary device in order for the Leader of the Opposition to assume the dispatch box. I also say in response—
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The first thing I would say in response to the Leader of the Opposition’s question is: this government will not be intimidated by any statements by any mining company anywhere. This government will not be intimidated by the statements of any mining company, foreign or domestic. This government does not stand here as the puppet of parts of the mining industry, as those opposite do; this government stands here to act in the national interest on behalf of all Australians.
The member for Flinders is warned! He might have been a bit unlucky, but he filled the vacuum. I simply say: for the next short period of question time could members try to show a little bit of respect for each other. The Prime Minister has the call.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition’s question also went to the impact on jobs. I find this remarkable from the Leader of the Opposition, who has resolutely opposed any form of stimulus in the economy, which has created 225,000 jobs in this economy. Had we followed the prescription of those opposite, we would have had 200,000 more people in Australia out of work. So, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to stand on his feet here and speak sanctimoniously about his concerns for jobs, I would ask him to reflect on his own party’s record on the question of how we responded to the global economic recession. That is the second point.
The third is this, and it goes to the particular statement put out by Xstrata this morning: it is passing strange that, when we have a new system which was announced just one month ago, we have 12 months to go before draft legislation and we are 24 months away from the start of a new system, a company of this nature would issue a statement of this type. Furthermore, in relation to the particular project at Wandoan, I add the following: under the proposed RSPT, first of all, such a project would have been eligible for a 40 per cent tax credit on its investment—that is the first point. The second is that coal royalties payable to the Queensland government would have been refunded. Furthermore, when it comes to the use of the tax credit, that becomes available to the company irrespective of whether it is generating a profit or not. This stands in stark contrast to the royalty system, which is a crude—
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition always interjects in this place, with enormous credibility! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, each time she opens her mouth, is in fact greeted with the shaking of heads on the part of all those behind her—and we know the reasons why. This set of taxation arrangements replaces a royalties regime which is a crude instrument applied only to, firstly, volume and, secondly, revenue.
In response also to the question of the Leader of the Opposition, he should also pay attention to the fact that it is our understanding that there are a number of other existing issues impacting on this particular development, concerning the feasibility of rail access, port infrastructure and power supply. My understanding is that these issues have not been fully resolved.
I conclude my answer to the Leader of the Opposition by saying this: we on this side of the House stand for the national interest; we do not stand here as the instruments of Clive Palmer or anybody else. I would say also to the Leader of the Opposition that Clive Palmer’s intervention in this debate yesterday was to make the remarkable statement that the minerals in the ground do not belong to the Australian taxpayers. This is the individual, Clive Palmer, who is the major contributor to the Liberal National Party in Queensland; he is the major contributor to the conservative parties in Queensland. He seems to also dictate the policy position of those opposite—and he stands in this capital and says that these resources are not owned by the Australian people. That is wrong. Those opposite obviously believe that this Mr Palmer’s position on this is right; we will stand for the national interest, not for the sectional interests of an individual mining company, foreign or domestic.