Senate debates

Thursday, 20 March 2014


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

1:38 pm

Photo of Mehmet TillemMehmet Tillem (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to make a contribution on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013. We are not here because of sound economic policy, sound social policy or sound policy of any description. The chamber is being asked by the Liberal-National government to abolish the minerals resource rent tax. In doing so, the coalition is asking us to short-change generations of future Australians so that the coalition can implement its election slogan. The commitments made by this government during the election were based not on any research, policy or wide-ranging analysis of what is good for the country but rather on what they could do to get into government at the time. One of these commitments was to scrap the mining tax. It was a three-word slogan that had no policy substance.

The contrast between this side of the chamber and those on the other side could not be starker. On one side we have those that believe all Australians should receive their fair share of economic benefit from our rich endowment of natural resources, while on the other they intend to leave the majority of people across Australia out in the cold. It would seem that those opposite believe that the wealth that comes from the soil we all own should be enjoyed by a minuscule minority. They would have us believe that leveraging a boom in our natural resources to invest in education, infrastructure, superannuation and small business is somehow a bad thing.

This is the con I will talk about today. The coalition intend to deny the Australian people these investments by selling them a duplicitous message that the MRRT will somehow put the mining industry to slaughter, while at the same time they benefit from the largesse of the mining industry. We on this side of the chamber will not be falling for it. It is important to look both at what this nation stands to lose and at what the coalition stand to gain if this repeal bill is passed. It is important that we examine the benefits of the MRRT as well as its strength as a tax. It is important that we analyse the motives underpinning the coalition's desire to abolish it.

The minerals resource rent tax is designed to reap the benefits of the mining boom and spread them fairly across Australia. The MRRT does this in several ways. Firstly, it funds an increase in superannuation for low-income earners. This is sound public policy in every way. As the population ages it will be low-income earners that are more reliant on the age pension, putting an even greater burden on the public purse and hampering the government of the day's ability to invest in infrastructure and other vital services. By using profits from the mining boom to increase super contributions for low-income earners, we are able to reduce their dependency on social welfare during their retirement years. This is a long-term policy that will reap immense social and fiscal benefits for the government over the coming decades. These benefits are underpinned by around $2.7 billion worth of investment in superannuation enabled by the funds raised by the MRRT. Indeed, by spending now we are able to save money in the future by enabling low-income Australians to be more independent in their retirement.

Secondly, the MRRT is being used to fund the schoolkids bonus, which is designed to give families $410 per primary school student and $820 per secondary school student in order to help parents pay for the needs of their kids' education—things like books, school uniforms and computers which aid students' learning. It is a policy aimed at reducing the cost-of-living pressures associated with the vital need to educate this nation's kids. By targeting middle- to low-income earners, this policy is effectively means-tested. As such, funds raised by the MRRT to be spent on this scheme are spent in an efficient and targeted way. As a government we identified those Australians most in need of a helping hand with expenses regarding their kids' education and devised a revenue mechanism capable of underpinning such a policy.

Added to this, the funds raised from this tax permitted our government to embark on other bold policies, all of which were aimed at improving the lot of ordinary Australians—something the coalition talk about a lot for the purpose of politicking but something they simply do not believe in. Indeed, their actions speak louder than their flimsy rhetoric—


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