Senate debates

Monday, 19 March 2012

Bills

Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Tax Laws Amendment (Stronger, Fairer, Simpler and Other Measures) Bill 2011, Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Bill 2011; Second Reading

8:38 pm

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I want some of what Senator Brown had! Clearly my barbecue lunch was not sufficient to get me as fired up as that, so I'll go back and have another sausage at the whips' barbecue when we leave here. I do want to talk about this ridiculous mining tax. Fundamentally, I think that what was wrong with this legislation from day one was the lack of consultation. Only three companies in Australia have been consulted in relation to this matter—BHP, Rio and Xstrata. They of course are the big beneficiaries of this tax. But what about those smaller miners and those start-ups and those prospectors? Ultimately, they are going to be the ones who will pay a higher effective tax rate as a result of this. Rio, BHP and Xstrata—and I am sure that my super fund will have shares in those companies—are good Australian companies, but this country was not built on the back of two or three big miners. This country was built on the back of people going out and having a go in the middle of nowhere, digging and digging, and you see those remarkable success stories throughout this country's history. It was not done by the big miners. This country has always encouraged small miners, and all we are doing with this bill is discouraging them by making them have a higher effective tax rate than we are the large players.

I cannot believe that not only has there not been any consultation with everyone else bar those three companies, but there has actually also been no consultation with the states or territories all the way through with this matter. There has been no consultation at all. This fundamentally changes the way we tax a sector in this country that has never been taxed like this before. No other sector has been taxed like this and I think that it is highly unlikely that any other sector in the future we will ever get taxed like this. The states are an absolute pivotal partner in mining in this country, as everyone in this chamber knows, and they have not been involved in discussions whatsoever. My understanding is that the Henry recommendations had been for a national resource rent tax to replace state and territory royalties, and some of my colleagues will let me know whether indeed that was what Henry first started out with. But that is certainly nowhere near where it finished. There has still been no consultation at all.

Out of interest, I thought I would read these figures to the chamber. When you look at state and territory governments and the implications of the mining tax for them, the resource royalties represent: 20 per cent of Western Australian state government revenue, nine per cent of Queensland's state government revenue, and six per cent of New South Wales state government revenue. They are quite remarkable revenue figures, and here we have a piece of legislation which will potentially dramatically impact on them—and there has been no consultation. It absolutely beggars belief.

It reminds me a bit of the carbon tax. What was the consultation in relation to the carbon tax? There was, I will acknowledge, significant consultation with the Australian people, and that consultation was, 'There will not be a carbon tax under the government I lead.' So there was consultation in relation to the carbon tax, but the consultation was built on sand. It was a broken promise in relation to something that the Prime Minister went to the election with three days before the last election. It was a solemn, hand-on-heart vow to the Australian people, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.'

The Henry tax review—and I am referring to someone else's words here—was meant to be the root-and-branch reform to deliver a simpler, fairer tax system. But what we have ended up with is a dog's breakfast, something that went from about 161 pages when the government released the first draft, to 287 pages with this legislation. As I said before, there is an unfair competitive advantage given to the big three companies that were actually allowed to design the tax, and a significant unfair and higher tax burden for the smaller mining ventures and start-ups.

I just want to talk about the international competitiveness issue, which my colleague Senator Scullion so eloquently talked about during his address. What we are doing with this mining tax is sending out a very, very, very clear message to the rest of the world that we are not serious about our own prosperity, that we are not serious about having rules in place which will enable people to invest in this country without the rules changing. We have got the carbon tax rules changing because of a lie that was told before the last election. We have got the rules changed in relation to mining tax, and you just wonder what will be next. We run the very grave risk of being the only generation to pass on to our children a lower standard of living than the one we were given by our own parents, and to me that is a horrifying thought.

The other issue is that the revenue from the MRRT is highly volatile and is downward trending. Indeed, if you look from the first year since the mining tax was announced, revenue estimates have jumped around from $12 billion under the RSPT, to $24 billion for the RSPT with revised commodity price assumptions, to $10.5 billion post the Gillard government mining tax deal and commodity prices assumptions, down to $7.4 billion post exchange rates to about $7.7 billion with post further exchange rate changes. Treasury has had a look at these revenue forecasts and they have done them up to 2020. Under FOI it clearly shows that Treasury expects revenue to reduce over time. This is quite a remarkable figure: the cost of the proposed increase in compulsory super to 12 per cent alone is expected to rise to $3.6 billion in 2019-20, which is when it will be fully implemented, and that same year Treasury projections for MRRT revenue is $3 billion. So, on that one measure alone, in 2020 this nation will be $6.6 billion behind without taking into account anything else in this package, any increase at all in the cost of the matters included in this. The government stand utterly condemned for what they have done in this regard.

I want to talk briefly about the constitutional validity of the MRRT. Senator Brown thinks it is appropriate to come in here and accuse the Clerk of being biased. We know his amendment. The Clerk has said that is unconstitutional. Senator Brown, that paragon of virtue, is quite happy to attack someone in the gallery without letting them know and quite happy to attack the Clerk of the Senate without letting the Clerk know. As the Clerk has walked in, I will not make any further comment about that except to say that I repeat my request to the President to look at the comments made by Senator Brown tonight.

I want to finish on this note. Ken Henry confirmed that the government did not at any stage seek advice as to the constitutionality of the MRRT. I find it quite extraordinary that, with a piece of legislation which could well end up in the High Court, there was apparently no endeavour at all— (Time expired)

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