House debates

Thursday, 26 June 2014


Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013; Second Reading

12:43 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

This is the second time this bill has been before the House and will be the second time it has been before the other place, where it was rejected. The reasons for rejecting this bill have not changed, they have only increased. They have increased in the light of this government's deceitful and unfair budget. Last time this bill was before the House I went through the scare campaign run by the then Liberal and National party opposition in relation to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. I pointed out that the Liberal Party and National Party, whether they be in opposition or government, have a great deal of difficulty in working out whether the Minerals Resource Rent Tax is a problem because it raises too much revenue from the mining sector or too little. They say it is a disaster because it does not raise enough revenue. They say it is a disaster because it has cruelled the mining industry in Australia. I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that both those propositions cannot be correct.

The now government says that we need to get rid of this because it does not raise enough money. If it does not raise enough money then how is it damaging the mining industry? We have heard all this before. It is a tired, old scare campaign which the Liberal Party conducts in opposition from time to time. We saw it when the then Hawke government introduced the petroleum resource rent tax. We were told that it would see the end of offshore exploration in Australia. The then shadow Treasurer, one member for Bennelong, John Howard, who used to hold the position of shadow Treasurer, argued that the petroleum resource rent tax would stop ventures proceeding and should not be proceeded with. The then member for Mayo, who went on to become the Foreign Minister of Australia, said:

The legislation is yet another example of this government introducing new taxes on the few productive industries we have left in Australia thereby inhibiting their development.

What a narrow, pessimistic point of view. What went on to happen was that that was implemented, enacted. The Howard government eventually came to office. The former shadow Treasurer became Prime Minister. Did they change the policy? No. It has raised for the Australian government since that time the equivalent in today's dollars of $39 billion. Does anybody suggest there is no offshore exploration going on in Australia because of the PRRT or there is no production going on in Australia because of the PRRT? Of course not, because it is a nonsense argument. Anybody who goes to the north-west of Australia or who knows anything about the resources sector in Australia would know that that is just complete nonsense.

This bill needs to be opposed for a whole range of other reasons as well because the government has chosen to continue their attack on working Australians through this bill. I want to first focus on the issue of retirement incomes, something which is quite topical in Australia. The Treasurer tells us we all need to work longer. The Treasurer tells us we need to have the longest working life in the world. He says we all need to work until 70 before we become—in his words—'leaners' on the Australian taxpayer by becoming age pensioners. He tells the manual labourers of Australia, the nurses, the policeman, the soldiers—people doing tough jobs—that they have to work longer, that they do not deserve the age pension until they turn 70 because it is not sustainable.

What is the Treasurer doing and what is this government doing to retirement incomes of Australians in this piece of legislation? They are making it harder, particularly for low- and middle-income earners to save for their own retirement. They are making retrograde steps to Australia's retirement income system, the most retrograde steps we have seen to superannuation in a long long time. When they were in opposition they promised no adverse changes to superannuation. What they have done is adverse change after adverse change.

The original MRRT repeal bill, which came before the House last year, proposed a delay in the increase in the superannuation guarantee. But it has got worse since then because the budget contained yet a further delay in the increase in the superannuation guarantee, which, in keeping with this government's typically chaotic approach, is not reflected in this legislation. But the government is going to come in, we are told, later today and move amendments to their own legislation to reflect their own budget.

Under the previous government and under the current law of the land, the superannuation guarantee was due to reach 10 per cent on 1 July next year. Now the government amendments will see the superannuation guarantee get to 10 per cent by 1 July 2018 when the original repeal bill had them getting to 10 per cent by 1 July 2017, so there is this constant delay to ensuring and helping Australian workers fund their own retirement. How does that make Australia's retirement income system more sustainable? How does that take pressure off Australia's age pension system? Of course it does not. It makes it worse and it is terribly unfair to Australian workers. It is also a particularly irresponsible measure. The increase in the superannuation guarantee and the establishment of the low-income superannuation contribution, which I will come back to later in my remarks, would have swollen Australia's national pool of savings and superannuation by $500 billion by 2037—a third of Australia's total output. So this is not a small amount of money we are talking about.

In relation to the age pension, Treasury analysis shows that a continuation of the previous government's policy settings would have resulted in a halving of the proportion of older Australians on the full rate age pension by 2050, moving Australians from the full age pension to the part age pension, which does two things: it makes our age pension more sustainable and is actually a positive way of dealing with the demographic changes in the Australian economy; and it gives people more opportunity to live their retirement without being entirely dependent on the welfare system, which is a win-win situation. But of course that is all far too sensible for this Treasurer, who says: what we are going to do is we are going to make it harder for people to save for their own retirement and we are going to make them work longer to boot. We are going to give them the longest working age in the world.

There is not one country in the world with a pension age of 70. And there is not one projected to have a pension age of 70 in the OECD by 2035, which is when this government is proposing to make Australians work to 70. And there is not even one with the projected age of 70 by 2050, which is what the Commission of Audit in effect recommended—with the possible exception, to be fair, of the Czech Republic, which has a formula to determine these things. So we have a Treasurer who says: you must work longer than anybody else in the world and I am going to make it harder for you to save for your retirement—and this particularly goes to low-income earners.

We hear a lot about superannuation tax concessions and how they should be protected. We hear a lot of rhetoric about that from those opposite. As they engage in the rhetoric, what they also do is launch an attack on low-income earners. When the Labor Party came to office in 2007, low-income earners received a tax concession on their superannuation savings of exactly 0 per cent. We looked at that and said that is not fair. High-income earners receive substantial tax concessions for their superannuation because they are saving for their retirement and that is fine. Why should high-income earners receive substantial tax concessions and low-income earners receive exactly 0 per cent tax concessions? That is just not fair. It is also bad policy for the nation to force low-income earners to rely on the age pension in their retirement. If you look at the combination of the low-income superannuation contribution and the rephasing of the increase in the superannuation guarantee proposed by the government, its abolition and the rephasing, we will see $75 billion less in retirement incomes by 2023, not that far away.

And this government has the hide to lecture Australians about how long they should work when it is undermining important advances in ensuring Australians of any income, be it low, middle or high, receive tax concessions for their superannuation. How can this government live with itself saying to low-income earners, to cleaners, to factory workers, to manual labourers, to clerical workers around the country: 'We are not giving you any support to save for your retirement. We are not going to give you any tax concessions, but high-income earners can get big tax concessions.' And it is worse, because the previous, Labor government said: 'We're going to make a few changes here. We're going to make the superannuation system a bit fairer. We're going to not only give low-income earners some tax concessions but pull the tax concessions for high-income earners back just a little bit in a fairly modest measure.' But what does this Treasurer do? He says: 'Oh, no, no. We're going to give those tax concessions back to high-income earners. We have a budget emergency apparently, but we can give high-income earners tax concessions on superannuation. But low-income earners, if they earn the princely sum of $37,000, we are giving nothing.' I say shame on this Treasurer and shame on this Prime Minister for treating the low-income workers of Australia with such contempt and such arrogance. That is an adverse change to superannuation if ever I have seen one. This is a government which treats hardworking Australians with contempt.

This bill does two things to retirement incomes. It delays the increase from nine to 12 even further than the original—although the member for Moncrieff is going to come in here a little bit later and move an amendment to his own bill in a typically chaotic fashion. Then we are going to abolish the low-income superannuation contribution. In the second reading speech, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the member for Moncrieff, said:

The government will revisit concessional contribution caps and incentives for lower income earners …

I thought, 'Okay, maybe they are rethinking—

… once the budget is back in a strong surplus.

So his message to low-income earners in Australia is, 'Just wait till we're back in surplus,' but for high-income earner it is, 'We're going to give it to you right away.'

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Says everything.

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It says everything about this government, as the member for Kingsford-Smith rightly interjects. It shows their arrogance and contempt for Australian workers.

I want to particularly focus in these remarks on the impact of this regressive change on low- and middle-income earners in rural and regional Australia. There was recently a report which I found very interesting. Twenty-four of the 25 electorates hardest hit by the abolition of the low-income earners superannuation contribution are in rural or regional Australia. That makes sense when you think about the people doing the work in rural and regional areas, many of whom are working in agriculture or other sectors, many of whom would be Indigenous people, who are trying to save for their retirement. And this government says, 'Bad luck.' Twenty-four out of 25 electorates are in rural and regional Australia, and who are the parties standing up against this regressive change which hits rural and regional Australia? The Labor Party; the Greens, to give them their credit; the Democratic Labor Party, to give them their credit. The National Party? Nope. Perfectly happy with this. Any opposition from the National Party? Not a word.

This is the typical National Party behaviour. They are lions in the bush and mice in Canberra. They beat their chests in their electorates and say, 'We're going to stand up for rural and regional Australia,' and they come here and are as silent as church mice. We have 48 per cent of all employees in the seat of Cowper, held by the Assistant Minister for Employment, impacted by this change. We have 48 per cent in the electorate of Page, which was won by the National Party at the last election. The seat of Mallee has a very vocal member who is very strong in Mallee and very quiet in Canberra. Forty-seven per cent of workers in his electorate will be hit by the abolition of the low-income earners superannuation contributions. The National Party's leader, the Deputy Prime Minister, has 46 per cent of workers set to lose the payment. Have we heard a word from the National Party? Not a word. It just goes to show you that, when it comes to standing up for the interests of rural and regional Australia, the National Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Liberal Party. They are wholly owned and controlled by the Liberal Party. They were played like a fiddle and deceived over the petrol tax. Just as the Liberal Party deceived the Australian people, they deceived the National Party. On this change, which affects rural and regional Australia, not a word of opposition from those courageous members of the National Party.

The Labor Party will stand up for the workers in rural and regional Australia. The member for Hunter recently had rural Australia added to his portfolio as shadow minister for agriculture. He has been very active. As shadow Treasurer I say we will also be very strong in supporting the interests of those hardworking Australians in rural and regional Australia who are asking for nothing more than a small tax concession as they set their own income aside for retirement. This is what we see from the modern-day National Party. There is no Black Jack McEwen sitting over there. We do not see those days anymore. The National Party of Australia is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Liberal Party.

The other constituency very adversely affected by the changes in this bill is the small business community. Again we hear rhetoric from the Liberal Party about how they are apparently the party of small business. This so-called party of small business, having won an election, is now increasing tax on small business in this very piece of legislation. They are increasing the tax rates on small business. How are they doing that? By changing the threshold for the instant asset write-off. I readily concede the instant asset write-off, if you have not studied these measures, does not necessarily sound like something which would be important to many small businesses, but I tell you it is. The change in the threshold increases the effective tax rate of a small business and increases their red tape burden. We are not going to cop any lectures from any government minister about red tape on small business while they are increasing the red tape burden on small business by reducing the threshold for the instant asset write-off.

What is the instant asset write-off? It says to small business that, if you make an investment in a range of things you might need for your small business, you can write it off quickly, with a minimum of paperwork and to improve your cash flow. When we came to office, the threshold was $1,000. We increased it to $6,500 in a measure which as welcomed by small business around the country. We went to the next election thinking: 'We could do better than that. We'll increase the threshold to $10,000.' What does the government do when coming to office? Reduces it back down to $1,000. What a slap in the face to Australia's small business people.

So, this is a government that is full of rhetoric on small business, and full of action, but it is adverse action, indeed. How can this government look small business in the eye and say to small business, 'We're on your side,' when they are increasing, in effect, the small business tax rate for Australians. The Nationals are quiet on the issue of the impact of this legislation on rural and regional Australia and the Liberal Party is quiet on the issue of defending small business.

It gets worse. We have also had the change to the depreciation of motor vehicles. Many a small business needs a car to get around the business. We allowed an immediate $5,000 deduction for a vehicle costing $6,500 or more. That is gone under this piece of legislation. So how can this government be seen as being pro small business when they are radically changing the instant asset write-off to the disadvantage of small business and increasing the red tape threshold?

The member for Kooyong, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, has been going around talking about how he is reducing the red-tape burden on Australian business. There is a lot of questionable things in that statement. I wonder if he is talking on this piece of legislation. I am sure that, even with the gag that this government has applied, he could get himself on the speaking list if he wanted. Let him justify to this parliament and to the small business community why they are increasing the red-tape burden. Let's have the small business minister speaking on this bill, explaining to Australian small businesses why he thinks Australian small businesses should pay a higher tax rate and with more red-tape burden. Again, the Labor Party will stand up for the small businesses of Australia.

The final matter that we will deal with in this particular piece of legislation is the attack on the cost-of-living support for Australians contained in this legislation. We see the abolition of the Schoolkids Bonus in this piece of legislation—$410 a year for primary school students and $820 a year for high school students. This adds up, if a family has two children, over the course of their schooling lives, to $15,000 of support. That is gone under this government. The Prime Minister comes in here on a daily basis and beats his chest about what he claims is a $550 reduction in the cost-of-living pressure on Australians—a figure which is questionable, in itself—but does he acknowledge that $820 a year, which is the rate for high school students, is more than the $550 a year that he claims in the relation to the abolition of the carbon price? And $410 a year for primary school students is in the same ballpark. So he gives with one hand—if you accept the premise of this proposition, which I do not necessarily do—but takes away with the other hand.

And that is before the assault on cost-of-living support for Australian families which is contained in the deceitful and unfair budget which the Treasurer delivered at that dispatch box about a month-and-a-half ago. We saw the impact of the changes to family tax benefit. If your child goes from six to seven years old, according to the Treasurer they become so much cheaper that the government can abolish the support through the family tax benefit. In my experience, children do not get particularly cheaper when they turn seven. Far from it.

That just shows again how arrogant and out of touch this government is. They campaigned on cost-of-living support and about how they were going to 'ride to the rescue'—the Prime Minister's words, not mine—of the Australian people and provide cost-of-living support for Australians across the board. They then came to office and they concocted a budget emergency to justify an assault—an attack—on the cost-of-living support for Australian pensioners.

They had the hide—the arrogance—to claim that this is not a cut to the age pension. The misleading nature of that statement is apparent to all. If your age pension is not being indexed fairly—if the budget is benefiting as a result—then that is a cut. The Prime Minister can deny it all he likes—he can argue it until he is black and blue in the face—but the pensioners of Australia know that this is a cut. The families of Australia know that the changes to family tax benefit are a cut, pure and simple. If you are receiving a family tax benefit now and your child is over six and you are not receiving it after this budget because your child is over six, you have suffered a cut.

That is what I mean when I say that the reasons for opposing this legislation have not reduced since it was last rejected in the other place. They have increased. They have increased because of the arrogant approach of this government. So the attacks have been on the retirement incomes of Australians and on the low- and middle-income Australians, making it hard for Australians to save for their own retirement. Australians are doing the right thing. They have been putting some money aside for their future. This government says, 'You're getting nothing; you are getting absolutely no support from this government.' That is the policy of the Liberal Party and the Nationals but they say, 'Don't worry; we'll revisit it sometime in the next decade. Don't worry; we'll remember you sometime in the next decade when we get back to surplus.'

They have not even made a commitment to do anything about it; they say that the issue will be revisited. That is simply not good enough and we will resist it in this House. We will resist it in the other house and we will resist it in the community. We will fight it. We will fight this government's attack on low-income earners. We will fight this government's attack on low-income earners because that is what we do; we defend low- and middle-income earners against the arrogant attack of this government.

This government was so deceitful in its election campaign. It was elected on a web of deceit, and that has been exposed in the budget, which we are still debating in this House a month and a half later. There are still many issues that we have not yet fully addressed in relation to the budget because it contains so many attacks on ordinary hardworking Australians, including to the retirement incomes of Australians, the delay in the superannuation guarantee charge increase, and the abolition of the lower income earners' superannuation contribution. It shows just how arrogant this Treasurer is when he says, 'You must work until you're 70 but I'm going to make it harder for you to save for your own retirement. I'm going to make it harder for you not to need the age pension. I'm going to make you work longer than anyone else in the world.

The member for Moncrieff, in introducing this bill, had the temerity to say that these changes—the further delay in the superannuation guarantee—would not have been required if the bill had not been blocked by the opposition in March. I have no idea what he is referring to. That is a statement whose sophistry and lack of clarity is abundant, because there is no policy grounds for further delaying the increase in the superannuation guarantee, which is a clear breach of an election commitment. That is an adverse change to superannuation, which this government said they would not do.

Members opposite campaigned in their seats and said, 'There will be no adverse changes to superannuation if we are elected.' Well, further delaying the increase in the superannuation guarantee is an adverse change. This is a Prime Minister who can stand there without falling over in laughter and say that there are no broken promises in this budget; who can stand there and say this is not an adverse change to superannuation. The Australian people are smarter than that. They are smart enough to know that this is a Prime Minister who has completely gone back on many election commitments, including that one.

But, of course, that is the form of the Liberal Party, because the Liberal Party does not like superannuation. This Prime Minister, when he was a backbencher, said that superannuation was a complete con job. He said that in this House. This Prime Minister said in this House that superannuation was a complete con job. He wrote things about it in his book, showing his true views on superannuation, and now that he has the chance as Prime Minister of Australia he is attacking superannuation—superannuation which gives ordinary, hardworking Australians the chance of a more comfortable retirement income, not reliant on the age pension but reliant on the investment through their superannuation funds. This Prime Minister thinks that is a con job and he attacks it in his budget.

We will defend superannuation for low- and middle-income earners, because that is in the national interest. It is in the national interest because we want Australians saving more for their retirement through the superannuation guarantee. We want them getting fair tax concessions—not tax concessions greater than high-income earners, not tax concessions which are unaffordable, but fair, well-calibrated tax concessions for low-income earners that say, 'If you are a low-income earner and you are saving for your own retirement, you will get some support from the government just as high-income earners do.' That measure, as much as anything else this government has done, shows the arrogance and contempt with which they treat hardworking Australians.

Then there is the attack on small business, as I said, through the change to the instant asset write-off and the change to the motor vehicle depreciation rate. This government is strong on rhetoric on small business. It talks the talk, but it never walks the walk when it comes to small business. We will fight that. We will oppose it in this House and we will oppose it in the other house. We will fight this bill. It is based on a fundamental false premise.

As I said in my opening remarks, the Liberal and National parties cannot decide whether the MRRT raises too much money or too little. They try to walk both sides of the street and have it both ways, but they use it as an excuse for a fundamental attack on the retirement incomes of hardworking Australians and an attack on cost-of-living support through the abolition of the schoolkids bonus—which was never funded by the MRRT. It should not even be in this bill. If the government wanted to abolish the schoolkids bonus, they should have the courage to put it in a stand-alone bill, because it was never funded by the MRRT. How dare they include it in this bill. How dare they mislead the Australian people by saying that it is funded by the MRRT when the budget papers clearly show it is not. They had the hide to include it in this legislation—yet more reason to oppose this bill, and that is exactly what we will do. We will oppose this bill. We will oppose it because of fundamental values—values which tell us that the measures contained in it are unfair, are not in the national interest and should be resisted.

1:10 pm

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Another day and another leadership audition from the member for McMahon –with all of that confected outrage. What we have seen during the last 13 or 14 minutes is the member for McMahon still framing the national debate using the politics of envy and division. It shows you how far the once proud Labor Party has fallen, because Hawke and Keating never would have done that. Every day, the member for McMahon and his colleagues walk in here and try to frame the national debate in the way that Australians instinctively know is not right. He stands there and talks about low-income earners and the cost pressures on low-income earners. If he is so concerned about low-income earners, why does he not pass the repeal legislation for the carbon tax? Why does he not provide that cost-of-living relief of $550 for every Australian family? Instead, they come in here time after time and they brigade with the Greens in the Senate to stop that cost-of-living relief for Australian families.

I am pleased to make a contribution to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2014. Let me commence by saying that, just like our repeal legislation for the carbon tax, the government will act in a way that is consistent with our clear election mandate to roll back Labor's ill-considered taxes. We are determined to wind back the bad policies of the former government—particularly the MRRT, which imposed significant financial and economic pain on the mining industry for very little gain. At a time when the industry was—and it remains so—confronted with challenges to its ability to invest and grow, the former government imposed additional pressures through the minerals resource rent tax.

The MRRT repeats the mistakes of the carbon tax. Recall that the carbon tax took no account of what happened at the Copenhagen summit and became a millstone around the neck of our international competitiveness. Despite the pain that it caused, and continues to cause—some $15 billion of economic damage in the last two years—the carbon tax did not actually have the policy effect of reducing emissions. Indeed, emissions went up in Australia, and the way we achieved that abatement effect was by putting billions of dollars of taxpayers' money into dodgy carbon markets overseas. How do we get to a point where this country puts forward and approves a bill that imposes $15 billion of damage that does not actually have the intended policy effect? As a former senior public servant I cannot understand that, much less Australian families.

Whether it is the carbon tax or the mining resource rent tax, it has the effect of undermining jobs and endeavour in our country. Similarly, the MRRT imposed a big lead weight on the mining industry. It increased its compliance costs, yet raised nowhere near the forecast revenue. Like some snake oil salesman at a country fair, the MRRT doubled up on the economic damage it caused when the former government linked a number of spending measures to the failed MRRT. The schoolkids bonus was an example of that—it was clearly dependent on revenue from the mining tax. We see that link in comments from Senator Wong, the then Minister for Finance in June of 2012, which directly linked the schoolkids bonus to the proceeds of the mining tax.

What happened is that Labor raised expectations in our community that the federal government would fund certain programs from mining tax revenue. The problem was that the MRRT did not deliver anywhere near the forecast revenue. Labor became even more reliant—if that is possible—on borrowings to pay for these commitments. When the longer history of Australia is written, the carbon tax and mining tax will be remembered as signature policy failures of the Labor party in government. In the case of the MRRT, it is forecast to raise only around 10 per cent of the originally forecast revenue. It is a bit like a gambler predicting what their winnings at the casino will be and then undertaking to spend all those winnings and expressing surprise when the consequences of their bad judgement are realised.

In my home state of Tasmania, resetting our economic course for a brighter future includes reinvigorating valuable industries like forestry and mining. Increasing the tax and compliance costs for industries like mining has the potential to damage our state doubly. It can impede new investment and impact on the growth of local jobs—highly undesirable outcomes for Tasmania which, sadly, has the highest unemployment rate in the country for both youth and adults and the lowest participation rate. Goodness knows the very deliberate and deceptive campaign by the Greens party to impede mining and forestry projects in Tasmania is bad enough already without these sorts of additional pressures.

I refer in particular to Greens efforts to lock up the so-called Tarkine in Tasmania. 'Tarkine' is a name given to the area by Dr Bob Brown, the former Greens leader, in the early 1990s which sought to elevate it to some mythical and romanticised status. In reality, this area is called the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. It is bounded by the Arthur River in the north and the Pieman River in the south. Yet Dr Brown's invention has mystical growing boundaries, matched only by Greens party demands to lock up even more of Tasmania as a national park. The Arthur-Pieman area is indeed a beautiful area with important reserves that deliver a sensible balance between recreational, economic and conservation imperatives.

Despite mine proposals and existing mines only covering one per cent of Dr Brown's mystical creation, the Greens continue to use every legal advice to impede their approval. That includes threats to sue the member for Braddon and Senator Madigan. The member for Braddon was in the chamber yesterday talking about some of the extraordinary pressure that is being applied in trying to stop him doing his job as a representative of his people as someone who is a champion of mining and forestry and seeks to restore the economic fortunes of what was once a proud state. Sadly after 16 years of state Labor and six years of federal Labor, and Labor-Greens government, Tasmania is no longer the proud state it once was. The member for Braddon, the member for Lyons and I will do everything in our power between now and the next election—and beyond, if we get the opportunity—to make sure that proud status is restored and the economic revitalisation of Tasmania is brought forward.

I will now go back to the Arthur-Pieman area, the so-called mystical Tarkine that Dr Brown talks about. Despite this area being dotted with historical mine sites and railway infrastructure, the Greens party, quite mendaciously, presents the whole area as pristine untouched wilderness. There is no doubt that the Greens and their Labor partners celebrate the MRRT, which only serves to add pressure on the mining industry. In this sense, Labor's mining tax supports Green party efforts around the country to impede sensible development.

Australians are a smart resourceful people who have a healthy suspicion of authority. They understand that taxes are necessary to provide for our community's needs. But their confidence has been shaken in recent years by tax policies that have overpromised but underdelivered—and the minerals resource rent tax is one of the key reasons for that shaken confidence. Australians understand instinctively that, when a tax cost more than it collects, something is seriously wrong. They understand that, when a government hangs billions of dollars of expenditure on a tax that does not raise the required revenue, something is seriously wrong. They know that, when that tax also has the effect of damaging the economy and threatening jobs, there is something seriously wrong with that tax.

Deputy Speaker, I ask you to recall Labor's original announcement of the grandly named 'resource super profits tax'. It is a matter of historical record that everything under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government had a grand moniker—the 'super tax', the 'education revolution'—and then 'crusade'—and the 'greatest moral challenge of our time'. Well, the super profits tax was not really all that super; it was meant to raise $49.5 billion over five years, which was then revised down to $26.5 billion. In July 2010 it became the minerals resource rent tax, and it kept sliding in every budget to raise only about $340 million net—a long way from $49.5 billion. But, to compound the error, Labor contributed $16.5 billion against revenue that had not been realised.

I see that the member for Rankin is here. He was working in the office of the former member for Lilley.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

'Working' is a bit over the top, a bit of an exaggeration!

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take that intervention—it was a long way from working! The member for Rankin was one of those hoping for the three lemons to line up on the Treasury poker machine when it came to the MRRT. But the only three lemons pulling the handle were Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Mr Swan—and the member for Rankin, the abacus in the background, was getting the sums wrong,. And that is why we are in the pickle we are in now. It is so bad that even Labor senators and MPs cannot defend it. Goodness me, if anyone should be defending your own tax, it is them. The mining tax was never understood; it has never been sold adequately; it has been a failure in practice. 'Why on God's green earth we defend a tax that doesn't raise any money, I'll never understand.' Those were the words of not a Liberal politician but the outgoing Western Australian Senator Mark Bishop. Labor's Alannah MacTiernan, the member for Perth, called the tax 'a dud' in the caucus and fights for 'a welcome outbreak of common sense'. It's a pity that those opposite do not listen to the member for Perth. 'I think it'd be fair to say that the mining tax hasn't done the job it was designed to do.' Well said, member for Perth!

The repeal of the mining tax and its associated expenditure will improve the budget bottom line over the current forward estimates by nearly $13 billion. The repeal of the MRRT will also provide welcome relief on compliance costs, saving millions of dollars for small, medium and large enterprises. The member for McMahon was in here talking about the pressure on families and the pressure on businesses. I had a Salvador Dali moment earlier today up in the Federation Chamber when the member for Franklin was similarly worried about cost-of-living pressures on families and complaining about a 40c increase for a tank of fuel while at the same time those opposite are stopping the repeal of the carbon tax that has the potential to deliver $550 per year in welcome relief to Australian families. Similarly, they stand in the way of the repeal of this mining resource rent tax that has such a big effect on our important mining industry.

Fewer than 20 taxpayers have contributed to the net $340 million raised by the MRRT to date, but around 145 other miners have been required to submit MRRT instalment notices while making no net payments. You do not need to be the Tasmanian representative on the coalition's deregulation committee to understand that it is a bad situation when companies are filling in paperwork, complying with the regulatory burden, yet not paying any net tax. Why do we force that on business? Why do we force that increased obstacle—that 1,200 kilometre screwdriver from Canberra—on the mining companies in Tasmania, forcing them to do things for no actual purpose?

The government has been entirely transparent in its policy to repeal the mining tax. In fact, we fought to repeal the mining tax at both the 2010 and 2013 elections. When we make promises—the things we say we will do for the Australian people—people know we will deliver. We said we would stop the boats and there has not been a boat now for over six months. We said we would build the roads of the 21st century and there is $50 billion in the budget—the largest infrastructure spend in this country's history, and my state of Tasmania is getting $1 billion of that. We said we would fix the budget. The member for Rankin would know the figures. He would know why we have to fix the budget. In just six years they achieved $191 billion of deficits, $123 billion in the forward estimates—another period of deficits going forward—with gross debt due to rise to $667 billion. We are borrowing $1 billion every month just to pay the interest bill on Labor's debt.

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

You borrowed $21 billion for paid parental leave, you fool!

Photo of Andrew NikolicAndrew Nikolic (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If we do nothing, in a decade that will lift to $3 billion. The opportunity cost of that is extraordinary. Imagine borrowing $3 billion in 10 years from now just to pay the interest on our debt. One month's worth of interest payments would build three new teaching hospitals in Tasmania. I say to those opposite: when it comes to the MRRT and the carbon tax, for goodness sake bend to the will of the Australian people. Listen to the mandate the government was given at the last election. Let us ease cost-of-living pressures not just on the families in Australia and in Tasmania but on those companies that contribute to revenue that gives our society the services that it quite rightly demands. Do what is right and in our country's interest. I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the next speaker, I ask the member for Rankin to withdraw.

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Rankin.

1:26 pm

Photo of Gary GrayGary Gray (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I take pleasure in rising to speak against the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013 [No. 2]. The MRRT is not the most elegant piece of public policy or taxation and it was certainly not conceived in the best possible environment; however, the MRRT does have the following virtue: it generates revenue that can be put to the good use of good governance for all time. Members of the House should be aware that yesterday the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics published its June quarterly figures. Those June quarterly figures show that Australia's resources and energy commodity export earnings are estimated to have increased 11 per cent in 2013-14 to a total of almost $200 billion. So since this tax came in the resources sector actually grew and it grew beyond the natural growth of our Australian economy by a factor of three. It grew by 11 per cent in 2013-14—$200 billion in revenue in total.

The BREE figures released just this week show that Australia's minerals and energy commodity export earnings are forecast to increase again by 2.6 per cent to over $200 billion in the coming year. It says:

Australia is continuing to see the transition from the investment phase of the mining boom to the production phase. Throughout 2013-14 the production of key resources and energy commodities has increased, supported by continuing demand growth in key markets.

Let us think about that for a second. It says that the introduction of the MRRT was done at a time when total minerals production grew by 11 per cent and when total revenue to the nation increased by over 2.5 per cent. It says quite clearly that the impact of the MRRT did not have a negative impact on our resources economy.

Another way of viewing that very simply is to look at our resources economy in historic terms. In 2003 commodity prices were low and committed investment in the resources sector was a record low of around $20 billion. Today's prices for minerals and commodities are much higher and investment has multiplied too. Higher commodity prices have driven mining investment on a scale that the world had not previously seen and certainly no previous coalition government had ever seen. Certainly this coalition government will not see investment in the resources sector that matches the investment in the resources sector that Labor presided over. We got resources: we understood resources, we understood what you could do and we understood what resources could do for our nation.

Committed investment during Labor six years totalled almost $270 billion. In 1948, following World War II, the operation to rebuild Europe, the Marshall Plan, was initiated. The Marshall Plan was valued at $13 billion. In current dollar terms, the Marshall Plan would be a $120 billion program over four years. The resources investment under Labor totalled $270 billion, two Marshall Plans in six years—global investment, the like of which our nation and no other economy has ever seen. How dare members opposite criticise the most competent and capable stewardship of the resources sector that our country and our economy have ever seen.

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour, and the honourable member will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.