House debates

Monday, 27 May 2013


Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013; Second Reading

8:00 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Casey, Liberal Party, Deputy Chairman , Coalition Policy Development Committee) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask leave of the House to move the second reading on behalf of the member for North Sydney.

Leave granted.

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The member for North Sydney had introduced this bill, the Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013, in his name but unfortunately he cannot be here this evening because he is meeting a speaking engagement that was agreed to quite some time ago. As you would understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, he has no control over the timing of these debates.

The coalition, as members would know, is seeking to amend the confidentiality of taxpayer information provisions within the Taxation Administration Act 1953, in order to provide an exception to the prohibition imposed on tax officers in relation to the disclosure of information regarding the tax affairs of a taxpayer in relation to the government's minerals resource rent tax. The purpose is that these amendments are intended to remove any doubt that taxation officers may disclose to the minister information about instalments of minerals resource rent tax paid for an instalment quarter in any MRRT year or the total amount of MRRT paid in an MRRT year where the information is provided for the purpose of the minister making the information publicly available.

These amendments will protect taxpayer confidentiality. They will not require disclosure of information about the tax affairs of a particular entity. I stress that instead the amendments will permit tax officers to disclose information to the minister—that is, the Treasurer—that relates only to the total amount of MRRT instalments paid, whether in a quarter or quarters or in the entire MRRT year. 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 a taxpayer. Information about the amounts of MRRT instalments paid for particular quarters or the total amount of MRRT paid for an MRRT year is information that should be available to the public.

As all members of this House know, revenue cannot be raised and money cannot be spent without the approval of this parliament and, in turn, parliament is entitled to the information it requires to scrutinise both revenue and expenditure proposals and performance. Any argument to the contrary is unsupportable in a representative democracy. The bill also compels the minister to table a report updating the House of the parliament within six sitting days of receiving information from the Australian Taxation Office of proceeds received under the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Act 2012 on both a quarterly and yearly basis.

If this bill succeeds the government will have no excuse when it comes to disclosing the total revenue that is raised by their failed mining tax. I will take the time to take the House through some of the history of this government's new mining tax. There have been five distinct versions. The first, as many may recall, was the resource super profits tax, which was announced with the publication of the Henry review back in May 2010. It then became the minerals resource rent tax in July 2010. The third version was the Policy Transition Group version, subsequently adopted by the government in December 2010. The fourth version was the Independents-Greens deal to ensure passage of the tax through the lower house. The concessions as to Independent member Mr Wilkie included increasing the profit threshold at which the tax kicked in. As well there were other Independent member concessions which included the government agreeing to use a portion of the profits of the tax to conduct assessments of regions or catchments to look at the impact of coal seam gas development. That was in November 2011. Then finally there was the Greens deal done to ensure passage through the Senate, including the government promising to provide monthly revenue updates on the tax revenue and splitting the associated company tax cuts that were subsequently dumped in March 2012.

With each version of the mining tax there have been changes in what the government says it will bring in. The original resource super profits tax was estimated to bring in $37 billion over a four-year period from 2012-13 to 2015-16. The redesigned mining tax, which was then rebadged as the minerals resource rent tax, was estimated to bring in $22½ billion over the same four-year period, a write-down of $14.5 billion. These estimates were then revised down in the 2012-13 budget, with it forecast to bring in $13.4 billion over the same four-year period. Again, in the 2012-13 MYEFO a further write-down to $9.1 billion over the same four-year period was booked. Then in the budget handed down for 2013-14 the government has revised mining tax receipts down even further to just $3.3 billion over the same four-year period. This tax went from supposedly collecting $37 billion, to $22.5 billion, to $9.1 billion, then to $3.3 billion over a four-year period—a $33.7 billion write down.

This is exactly why the shadow Treasurer and the c oalition are proceeding with this p rivate m ember's b ill. The public should be informed of exactly what this tax is raising. The estimates provided by the g overnment hav e been so far off the mark, they a re completely unreliable. This p rivate m ember's bill should not be necessary. The g overnment was quite happy to promise full monthly updates on the MRRT when it did the deal with the Greens to ensure the passage of the legislation through the Senate. But then it seemed to have no qualms about breaking that deal when it became clear that the MRRT was not going to raise anywhere near the expected revenue.

The g overnment has linked around $15 billion of spending to this tax over the forward estimates. Just some of these programs have included a 50 per cent discount on interest income, which was subsequently abandoned in the 2012-13 budget; lowering the company tax—also a promise broken in the 2012-13 budget; a standard deduction for work related expenses and the cost of managing tax affairs—the same again in the same budget; and a number of other spending proposals. Additional expenditure measures have been subsequently added, including the establishment of a regional infrastructure fund, expanding the definition of exploration to include geothermal energy, and a number of others. It did not stop after that, either. Additional expenditure measures included from the 2012-13 budget have also been announced, some of which have been announced and then abandoned just in the budget last week. For instance, the increase in the rate of family tax benefit part A, which was announced in the previous budget, was abolished in this budget.

The finance minister has directly linked the schoolkids bonus to the mining tax—a mining tax which is not collecting anywhere near the revenue that the government said it would. I quote the finance minister, who said on 6 June 2012:

I think it's about making sure we use the benefits of the boom wisely. And I think the government's approach with the mining tax and making sure the benefits of that flow through to families, particularly low and middle income families through the Schoolkids Bonus, where people get assistance for kids' education costs, (does that). We need to continue to invest in education and training and we need to make sure we continue to work on productivity. And all of these things are about using the benefits of the boom wisely.

As all Australians know, and as every member of this House knows, the revenue that the government said would be there has not been there and has not been even close to the mark.

As I said at the outset, this private member's bill very clearly puts beyond any doubt the ability of tax officials to provide the Treasurer with aggregate tax collection detail. It puts that beyond doubt and it also ensures that once the Treasurer has that information it is reported to the House and, through the House, to the Australian people, as it should be. The confidentiality provisions are there to protect individual taxpayers but, as former Treasurer Costello said, have never been used to prevent the use of aggregate tax collections. This bill puts all of that beyond doubt and it ensures that there is proper accountability to this House of the revenue collected in aggregate, and through this House to the Australian people.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood Learning) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion is seconded and reserve my right to speak.

8:11 pm

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It was a very valiant effort from the member for Casey to go almost 10 minutes on what is a very, very narrow private member's bill. What he was not able to do was to mask exactly what this private member's bill is all about. It is not about disclosure. The member for Casey and the member for North Sydney know that this bill is highly unlikely to pass this House and, if it does, is certainly unlikely to have any effect between now and the issuing of the writs for the next election.

What this bill really is about is a continuation of the opposition's obsession with the MRRT—the minerals resource rent tax. It is really a funny thing because we have had a petroleum resource rent tax for many, many years—I think it is 20 years or more—and we have not had much fuss about that. But when the application is to the minerals sector, the attitude of the opposition seems somewhat different; however, I will leave it for those on the other side of the chamber to explain why.

The member for Casey's main complaint, and it follows the theme from the member for North Sydney when he introduced this private member's bill, is that the super profits tax—as I will call it—is not producing enough revenue for the government. That is what this debate has been all about. It is a funny thing because when we introduced the original version of this tax, and after each iteration, the opposition claimed it would destroy the mining industry. They said it was a terrible thing and the whole industry was going to close down because we were going to reap all this additional revenue from the industry. We said, 'No, that's not right because this is a tax designed only to add taxes when super profits are being made in the sector.'

Now, because it is not raising revenue, they are still complaining, saying the tax is a failure and therefore needs to be scrapped. There is no logic in that argument whatsoever. But it goes even deeper than that. When you really think about it, it is not about disclosure. It is not even about the revenue. It is about the principle. This is an ideological debate. The Labor Party believes that when a company is making abnormal profits out of a natural resource owned by the Australian taxpayer then they should make an additional contribution, again, in the same way the petroleum industry has been doing for many, many years. The shadow minister at the table knows this subject very well. We believe that should apply not only to petroleum but also to the mineral sector, including fossil fuels like coal.

But for them this does not seem to fit very well. No doubt, they made a commitment to the coalmining industry very early in the piece that they would 'get rid of this terrible tax'. Of course it is a terrible tax to the mining sector! If I were a coalmining company chief executive, a chairman or a member of the board I would not be arguing for an additional tax on superprofits when commodity prices are high either. I would be opposing it in the same way that the petroleum industry opposed it in the early 1980s. But, to the credit of all the parties at that point in time, there was not a big ideological debate about that concept. People understood the principles underpinning that superprofits tax. But, for some reason, when we applied it to the minerals industry and the coalmining industry it was a different proposition. Could it be because they felt that an election victory was nigh—so close they could smell it—and they decided to make a political point on the subject rather than take a sensible public policy approach? I think the answer to that question is yes, unequivocally.

This is not about disclosure. They understand the commercial-in-confidence issues and the privacy issues. Yes, the tax was bringing in a fairly low level of revenue—certainly much less than anticipated when people expected commodity prices to be in a different place—and when revenues are that low disclosures can lead to an identification of who is paying the tax. Yes, it is all right for Mr Costello to say it has never been used for that purpose, but it could be that it has never presented itself in those circumstances where the disclosure of the full revenue intake would identify individual taxpaying companies. That makes absolute sense to me. But, again, this is not about disclosure; this is about ideology and it is about trying to win an election.

Let me talk to the House about what the minerals resources rent tax means to me and my electorate. We have not had the rivers of gold we hoped would flow from the tax because, as I said, commodity prices have come off. In terms of my electorate in particular, both steaming and coking coal prices have fallen dramatically, to an extent that no-one could have imagined when the tax was first put in place. But it is raising revenue, and in the budget I got some $45 million for an overpass or, potentially, a bypass of a level railway crossing in the township of Scone in my electorate. How ridiculous is it that in the 21st century we have a main highway through a substantial town blocked off by coal wagons for up to eight minutes at a time? Think of all the implications that has for traffic flows and emergency services if there were to be an accident on one side or other of that railway line. So we are going to either put an overpass over that level railway crossing or go around that level railway crossing. The money was in the budget, and it might not have been if it were not for the MRRT. That is one example of what it means to my electorate.

The Hunter electorate and the Hunter Valley generally welcomes the coalmining industry. It has brought enormous wealth to the valley. It has given people incomes they could only have dreamt about if not for the mining industry. It has been good for our skills development; it has given hundreds of kids apprenticeships they would not have secured if the industry had not existed. We welcome it. I am happy to say that I love it. I am happy to stand here and say that. But it does bring problems: it brings road congestion; it brings air and water quality issues; it makes it harder to get a kid into the childcare centre; it makes it harder to find a house to live in—either to own or to rent; it brings all sorts of capacity constraints. And because of the policies of successive New South Wales governments—that is, of all stripes—we have not enjoyed the return of coal royalties to the region that we should have to deal with some of those capacity constraints. This is partly what the minerals resource rent tax is all about: making sure that more of the benefits of the coalmining industry are returned to the region from which they came and which suffers some of these adverse impacts as a result of being the source of that coal product.

Of course, it is not just about the infrastructure fund that flowed from the tax; it is also about increasing superannuation for 3.6 million low-paid Australians. This is something the opposition has confirmed it will get rid of—they did so in the opposition leader's response to the budget. It is also about tax concessions for small business, something I would have thought those sitting opposite would have supported. There are also larger immediate write-offs for the small business sector; a sector that is so important to our local and regional economies.

It is so transparent that this bill is not about more fulsome disclosures, or about who is paying the tax and when. What do they want? I am not sure I got it. They want us to report every month what has come in from the minerals resource rent tax, as if we run in here every month and report in such detail what has come from the fringe benefits tax or the capital gains tax, or even from the income tax or company tax, for that matter. It is a silly proposition. It has not happened in the past and it should not be happening now. They know it is not going to happen. They know this is a stunt. What this is really about is ideology, and making sure that the donations keep coming into the coffers. They are signing up to the mining companies: 'We'll fix it for you, fellas! Don't worry about that. And we'll keep it alive and well in the parliament between now and the next election with some silly private member's bill just to keep it bumping along in the newspapers.' They have been exposed. It is so transparent and it is so obvious.

I am happy to stand on this side. I am happy to be part of a show that has its eye on superprofits, particularly when they come from natural resources such as coal and minerals. I am proud to stand here against the mob on the other side who take an ideological approach and who are just playing politics with a very important subject.

8:21 pm

Photo of Ian MacfarlaneIan Macfarlane (Groom, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

8:31 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

It is worth reviewing briefly how we got to where we are today. When the mining boom hit Australia, with commodity prices hitting century highs and mining profits going sky high, this government decided it would be an appropriate time to do for the mining sector what we had done in the petroleum resource sector a quarter-century earlier. That is not to use the old, outdated system of royalties to tax mining but to use a far more economically sound approach and to tax profits in the mining sector. Profits based taxation, Brown taxation, makes eminent sense. It recognises that the world price is not a price that is driven by the ingenuity of miners, ingenious as they may be, but it is a price which is driven by the demands of the world for our commodities. China and India are demanding our coal and iron ore because they need them to build skyscrapers for their industrialisation and that has driven the price through the roof. Yet until this government put in place an MRRT the Australian taxpayer did not see a cent when the prices went up. They got maybe a little extra for the volume but nothing for the price. So whereas at the start of the decade mining taxes were a dollar in three of company profits, by the end they had gone down to a dollar in seven.

This government decided to put in place an MRRT, a profits based mining tax, indeed the same mining approach which had been recommended to the Henry tax review by none other than the Minerals Council of Australia. That is right: when the Henry review asked for suggestions on how to do mining taxation, the Minerals Council of Australia said, 'You ought to do it through a profits based tax.' It is not a radical suggestion. Indeed, Sarah Palin made her name in Alaska on profits based commodity taxation. So if you think that is a radical idea, I guess that means you think Sarah Palin is a moderate.

We put in place an MRRT and that MRRT is a fairer way of taxing commodity revenue. That commodity revenue is going to go up and down, but what this government has announced is that we are introducing legislation to allow the publication of revenue that reveals individual taxpayers. The bill that we are bringing before the House is a comprehensive approach. It will apply not only to the MRRT and the PRRT but also to other taxes paid by large corporations and multinationals. It is a considered, properly thought-through approach to transparency. It is not an opposition thought bubble; it does not simply attempt to grab a cheap headline. It actually takes a substantive approach to improving transparency.

What frustrates me most in this debate is hearing insinuations from those opposite that the government has been trying to hide MRRT taxation. This is information that the government did not have access to in the first quarter. The Commissioner of Taxation made a determination that under current arrangements he was legally unable to provide the data to the government or to release it publicly. That advice was not political advice, it was based on advice from the Australian Government Solicitor. So what we really have here is those opposite cooking up a bogus debate so they can go in to bat for the mining sector. The mining sector is a sector that the opposition has pledged to give a big tax cut to. When it comes to the election, those opposite will be going to the polls promising voters that they will give a tax cut to Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer and that the tax cut will be paid for by taking money away from kids on their first day of school. That is the values, that is the priorities of those opposite. They do not believe that mining companies should pay their fair share; they believe that mining companies are paying too much tax. The repeal of the mining tax and the repeal of the carbon price are going to create a revenue shortfall of $26 billion, over $1,000 for every Australian. How do you make up for that? You either raise taxes on middle Australia or you savagely cut spending.

If those opposite are speaking about transparency then the key issue that Australians are demanding transparency on is coalition costings. Australians expect that when they go to the polls they will have the chance to make a decision between two sets of properly costed policies. Governing is about trade-offs, it is not about promising everything to every special interest that wants a tax repealed, every special interests that wants more spending. Government is about making choices. When Australians hear those opposite say that they can deliver higher spending, lower taxes and pay down debt faster, they should know they are being told porkies. They should know that this is magic pudding economics.

We have seen some of that through independent experts, through the Parliamentary Budget Office and through Treasury, confirming that under Labor the budget will steadily improve over the coming years; independent experts who have recognised that the world economy has taken an axe to government revenues; independent experts who have also recognised that the sustainability of former Prime Minister John Howard's fiscal decisions in the early 2000s was deeply questionable. The Parliamentary Budget Office report on the structural deficit has confirmed the recent International Monetary Fund report which found that, when you look over Australian history back to World War II, the Howard-Costello government was the most wasteful government in Australia's history.

The opposition now are in a deep fiscal hole. They have on their own admission a $70 billion black hole, which is more in the order of over $2,000 per Australian, and that is before the recent significant write-downs to company revenue. They are planning on skating to the election on a mysterious commission of audit—the same commission of audit that Campbell Newman attempted to use prior to the Queensland election to hide his harshest cuts from the voters. What Campbell Newman has delivered to Queenslanders is 14,000 job losses and savage attacks on health and education.

Much of the coalition's fiscal hole comes from policies like the deeply regressive paid parental leave scheme. I do not have to go about criticising that scheme, because so many of those opposite have done it for me. We have heard comments from the member for Tangney, who said:

Certainly I'm aware of a number of colleagues that have similar concerns on this policy.

…   …   …

There hasn't been a detailed policy debate on this issue in the party room, but I think that it is one that needs to be had.

We have had the member for Mitchell say:

Most importantly for Australians, the policy does not pass the fair-go test.

We had the member for Moore say:

The Labor Party scheme is quite good—

and question how the coalition scheme would improve productivity. Former Liberal minister Peter Reith has said: 'It is obviously bad policy, and I have no doubt a lot of people in the coalition are unhappy about it. It was a decision by Tony.'

The opposition have claimed that they can pay for this highly regressive, unfair paid parental leave scheme through company taxes, which all sensible-thinking economic folk know are ultimately levied on workers. So this will mean more expensive prices on groceries and driving up the cost of mortgages because it will be imposed on banks, all for a scheme which is not going to be available to those working in government. That means not only the public servants in my electorate but the teachers, the police officers, the local government childcare workers—none of these workers will have access to the paid parental leave scheme that the opposition is putting in place. It will be extremely expensive. It will hit them, but it will not help them.

I also want to note in closing some of the to-and-fro that has been taking place over the past week over the allegations of the member for North Sydney about government. The member for North Sydney has suggested that in some way Treasury forecasts are politicised. Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson has come back and responded to that in crystal terms. He has said:

Let me be very clear. Treasury does not provide the government with a range of numbers. Treasury provides its best professional estimate to the government. It is up to the government of the day - and this applies back through history - to do what it wishes with those forecasts.

So the Treasury secretary has been crystal clear with the member for North Sydney that the forecasts produced by Treasury are a number, not a range. That has been the case under previous governments. It is the case under this government. To say otherwise is to deceive this parliament.

8:41 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is interesting to listen to the contribution of the member for Fraser. Most of the last 10 minutes he spent rehashing the old furphies about coalition policy and direction and makes the comment that $26 billion is our potential shortfall in getting rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax. I would like to contrast that with five years of deficits totalling probably a net $150 billion. I'll pay the $26 billion any day!

I rise in support of the Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013 because the amounts of the MRRT instalments paid either quarterly or yearly is information that should be disclosed and made available to the public. This amendment seeks to make changes to this effect, amending the confidentiality of taxpayer information provisions in division 355 of part 5 of schedule 1 of the Taxation Administration Act 1953. Importantly, it seeks to remove the smokescreen that has been used by this Labor government to avoid any kind of transparency over expected revenues.

This is a very important and necessary amendment to the taxation act following this government's comprehensive failure of the implementation of the MRRT and the consequent failure to deliver on the forecast of expected revenue. The mining tax has been a complete failure, starting with the member for Griffith losing his position as the country's Prime Minister over the original resources superprofits tax, and it has had quite a few iterations in between. The Treasurer failed to engage in genuine tax reform discussion with the state and territory governments, opting instead for a cosy meeting with the managing directors of the three biggest mining companies behind closed doors. Surprise, surprise: we finished up with an MRRT that suited the mining companies and the failure of the government to actually understand the consequences of what it negotiated.

Failing to consult with the state and territory governments in a genuine discussion about the implications arising from the MRRT is one of the reasons why this failed tax is in such a poor state of affairs today. We said right from the start that this tax was not going to work and that it would never raise the kind of money this government said it would.

This government is very good at aspirations but hopeless when it comes to delivery. As Lord Kelvin famously said, without numbers, '…your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.' Unfortunately, even with numbers your knowledge may be unsatisfactory; this government proves this adage every single day. To quote Terry McCrann:

The message has been blunt and very simple. The global demand outlook for our commodities is weakening; while at the same time we are making Australia an increasingly unattractive place to invest. From a combination of raw cost escalation, and regulatory, environmental and sheer bureaucratic bastardry.

Further to Mr McCrann's comments, a report from Citigroup's Edward Morse is even more unequivocal. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that:

It is the classic pincer movement of supply and demand, with Chinese imports of iron, copper, coal, and oil cooling at just the wrong moment.

And he quotes Morse as saying:

It is now clear the commodity super-cycle is over. The overall slowing and the restructuring of the Chinese growth model should mark a watershed in global commodity markets. For many industrial metals, China, in fact, was responsible for all of net global demand growth after 1995.

Before the financial crisis, this government underestimated revenue, and since then it has overestimated it. When it comes to forecasting revenue, they appear to be suffering from economic dyslexia. The forecast revenues from the mining tax—personally and secretly negotiated by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Treasurer, Mr Swan, in June 2010—have collapsed from an initially projected amount of $22.5 billion to $3.3 billion, and in this financial year we have seen a total of $200-odd million. We just continue to see more— (Time expired)