Thursday, 3 November 2011
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Treasurer. I refer to the government's mining tax which was negotiated in secret with the three biggest mining companies—BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata—to the exclusion of the rest of the industry. In particular I refer to the government's revenue projections which are based on secret data and secret assumptions and which directly contradict industry projections. I ask the Treasurer, firstly: why are you not prepared to guarantee in legislation that the rest of the industry will not pay the tax earlier than the big three? Secondly: why are you not prepared to guarantee in legislation that the rest of the industry will not pay the tax at a higher rate than those big three companies that helped design the tax?
We should call a spade a spade. The fact is that there is a completely unjustified campaign, run by a number of organisations that describe themselves as 'smaller miners', that somehow this tax discriminates against small miners. This tax does not discriminate against small miners and it will be paid predominantly by very large miners. Mr Forrest is here today, and he was part of a press conference, and he claims to be a small miner. He has a $20 billion company! A $20 billion company is not a small miner.
We made a range of changes to the tax over a period of time in what has been probably the most open and transparent process that any piece of tax legislation has ever been put through. We went through the Ferguson-Argus review, and there were comprehensive submissions made right through that process. It has been through two rounds of consultation through the tax office. But let us get rid of this bunkum that the tax somehow discriminates against small miners. It does not. We have even put in a new threshold where it is not paid under $50 million and it phases out through to $100 million. This is complete rubbish. As far as Mr Forrest is concerned, when he put on the public record all of the changes he wanted, on 29 June last year, we implemented every single one of them.
We have been through a comprehensive process of consultation on this legislation, and there are some who are unhappy about it because the truth is that they do not want to pay any tax. They want to mine the mineral, which is owned 100 per cent by Australians, which can only be dug up once, which has gone to record prices, and they do not want the Australian people to get a fair return. The consequence of that is that struggling small businesses right around this country will pay more and there will be less in the superannuation savings of millions of workers. That is what they stand for, and that is what those on that side of the House stand for. They have always stood with vested interest. We stand for working families.