Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and other Measures Bill 2013 - Second Reading

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:02): I want every senator who did not understand that it was coalition policy at the last election to repeal the minerals resource rent tax to raise their hand. There are no hands raised. I ask the same question of the Australian public, particularly people in my home state of Queensland and in the state of Western Australia: can you raise your hand if you did not know that it was the coalition's policy to repeal the mining tax. I cannot see them but I am sure there would not be a hand raised anywhere in Australia, particularly in my home state of Queensland or in Western Australia. Why do I refer particularly to my home state of Queensland and to the state of Western Australia? They are the states which contribute most to Australia from mining resources and from the taxes currently paid by the mining industry.

Everyone in Queensland and in Western Australia knew that, if they voted for the Liberal and National parties, the mining tax would go—and people wanted it to go. There were a couple of reasons for that. Perhaps the most important reason was that it discouraged investment in the mining industry. It meant that those international and Australian companies with current investments in the mining industry were drawing back. What does that mean? You do not have to be a great economist to know that, without continuing investment in the mining industry, things start to slow down—and that means jobs.

I know that in Western Australia jobs in the mining industry are so very, very important, as they are in my own state of Queensland. So many of those people of whom the Labor Party allegedly are the representatives in this parliament are the people who are now starting to lose their jobs. They are the people who, thinking that the mining industry had a great future in Australia—before the Gillard government came along—went out and got a good job in the mining industry, in Western Australia or in Queensland. They then, with the expectation of a good income for many years, went out and bought a house, mortgaged to the bank, and set their lifestyle and their business plans for their family on the basis that the mining boom would continue forever.

It is those people who went to the polling booths and said, 'We understand; we can cut through the Labor Party rhetoric, we can cut through the false promises, we can cut through the lies. We understand that the CFMEU no longer looks after our interests. We can work that out.' As I said, you do not have to be an economic genius to see what is happening on the mine site. That is why so many people in Queensland and Western Australia voted for the Liberal and National parties.

Mr Deputy President, I ask you and I ask other senators, because this is the Senate chamber: which states in the last election returned three coalition senators almost on the first count? Was it South Australia? No. Was it Tasmania? No. Was it Victoria? No. It was Queensland and Western Australia who returned three coalition senators. I think in Western Australia Labor got one senator, was it? One senator. In Western Australia, one of those elected in addition to the three Liberal senators was a representative of the Palmer United Party, which at the time had made it very clear that they opposed the mining tax. Now, I am not quite sure where the Palmer United Party is at the moment but I suspect that, if the PUP nominee is returned at the upcoming by-election, he will have his own views. I know he is a person who has been involved in business in Western Australia and understands just how bad the mining tax has been for Western Australia.

I am labouring the point, but I want those opposite to understand that Australians, being in a democracy, have an opportunity to express their view on what is happening—and, when they express that view, you would think that the parliament would follow that view. We are not in South Australia, where you get 53 per cent of the vote and the other party gets to be in government! Nationally, things are not like that. Australians have the opportunity to indicate which policies they want adopted; and, quite clearly, in the last election Australians as a whole but particularly those in Western Australia and Queensland indicated they wanted to get rid of the carbon tax and they wanted to get rid of the mining tax.

I mentioned one of the reasons they voted that way was that they were concerned about their jobs and their mortgages—because they understood that the mining tax was discouraging investment in Australia's mining resources industries. I now know why Paul Howes is resigning from the Labor Party and the union movement today. I assume he is honourably abiding by his promise to resign if just one job was lost. I think even Mr Howes has been able to understand that it is not just one job lost; literally thousands and thousands of jobs have been lost because of the carbon and mining taxes.

That is principally why people voted against the mining tax and for the Liberal senators in Western Australia. But the other reason, of course, was that it was a tax that cost more to collect than it raised. Only the Labor Party and the Greens working in harmony could devise a tax that lost money!

That must go down in the political history of the world, I would say, as a unique situation: the Greens and the Labor Party could devise a tax that lost money.

I have never forgiven Xstrata, BHP and Rio, and every time they come knocking on my door the first part of the conversation is me saying to them, 'I've never forgiven you for how you did that deal with Wayne Swan.' But, in retrospect, I can only think that the three CEOs of those three major international mining companies must have thought all their Christmases had come at once when they were called upon by Ms Gillard, the then Prime Minister, to go and negotiate with Mr Wayne Swan, the then Treasurer, on how to devise a mining resource rent tax. Those three CEOs must have said: 'There is a God. Christmas comes every day when we've been asked to go and meet with Wayne Swan and devise a mining tax.' What happened with their devised mining tax that Mr Swan was lured into? Those three did not pay any tax, but all the other miners ended up somewhere along the line with a tax. Again, only a Labor Treasurer, only a member of the Labor Party, advised by the Greens political party, could possibly have fallen for that trap and devised a tax that simply raised no money.

Mr Deputy President, you have already heard in this debate and you will hear again, but I must repeat, that since 2006-07 the mining industry has paid tax—very considerable tax. In spite of what the Labor Party and the Greens, particularly, say about 'these wealthy miners ripping Australia off and taking their profits overseas', since 2006-07, the mining industry has paid $117 billion in company tax and state royalties, and that is just in company tax and state royalties alone. It does not include the huge amount of tax generated from income and other payments that are made.

I am delighted to see that a council up in the north-west of Queensland, the Cloncurry Shire Council, has come to a good arrangement with the mining companies in that shire so that the mining companies there also contribute quite substantially these days to the community facilities established and run by the Cloncurry Shire Council. All credit to Mr Andrew Daniels, the mayor up there, and his council for the way they have looked after their shire by making sure that all of those working in the shire pay their way. The mining companies in that area, happily, pay a substantial part of the revenue to that shire. But that is just one instance. There are 117 billion other dollars in company tax and state royalties, plus all the tax that those working for the mining companies pay.

Mr Deputy President, you will remember that in its original form the resource rent tax—the mining tax, let me call it—was forecast to raise $49.5 billion in five years from 2012. Not only did it not raise that money but it lost the Prime Minister at the time his job. It cost Mr Rudd his job, as I recall, and the new Prime Minister then, Ms Gillard, said that she would fix the impasse with the resource sector, and the minerals resource rent tax was born. Mr Swan, I regret to say a member from my state of Queensland—I only regret to say it because if people judged Queenslanders by Mr Swan they would have a very low opinion of us—indicated that the tax had raised $126 million in the first six months. Remember that it was supposed to get, in the first five years, $22.5 billion. In the first six months it raised a tiny $126 million, most of which went in advertising the tax, in setting it up and in running this very complex tax system.

I hope there are some members from the Greens political party participating in this debate because I would like them to explain to me how you can devise a tax that actually costs the taxpayer money. I saw at first-hand how the Greens political party initiated an inquiry into Qantas, one of the biggest businesses in Australia, and it was an embarrassment, I have to say, to attend that hearing and see some of the puerile questions from Labor and Greens members trying to tell Qantas how to run its business. I digress, Mr Deputy President, to tell you that one of the Greens or Labor senators—I will not be nasty enough to identify which one—could not work out the difference between cash flow and profit and loss. It was an embarrassment when Mr Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, had to sit down and give senators a lesson on something as simple about economics as the difference between cash flow and profit and loss. So here we are with the Labor and Greens political parties devising a tax which made no money.

Only 20 taxpayers have so far paid the tax over the first year. Those 20 taxpayers paid $400 million—remember, it was supposed to get $22.5 billion over the first five years; so a tiny $400 million has been raised—but 145 other miners have been required to submit all the paperwork associated with the tax. If you wonder why international investment is going to South America and Africa and not to Australia anymore, it is because of the red and green tape, the filling in of paperwork. That is a great example: 20 pay the tax and 145 had to fill in the forms. To set up this tax there was $40 million in advertising. That advertising was mainly to try and convince the Australian public that it was a good idea. It was political advertising paid for by the taxpayer but, in a typical Labor Party way, using taxpayers' money to run election campaign advertising. So some $40 million was spent on that and $50 million was spent on setting up this tax: all the public servants, all the bureaucrats, all the form filling, all the papers, all the expert advice, so-called. So, just to set it up, it was $90 million, almost as much as the tax collected in the first six months. Then, on top of that, there was a conservative estimate of some $20 million a year to administer the tax—to administer a tax that does not raise any money.

My colleagues have spoken on the mining tax, and I refer people particularly to the speech of Senator Back from Western Australia. I urge Labor and Greens members to look at it, because they might learn something if they focus on that speech and understand just how the figures do not stack up. Again, this is so important to my state, and that is why I am taking part in this debate. I hate to admit this as a Queenslander but I recognise that the mining tax has a greater impact on the state of Western Australia because Western Australia eclipses even my state of Queensland as the mining giant of Australia and, indeed, the world. So much of the Western Australian economy depends on the mining industry. So many jobs in Western Australia depend on the mining industry. So many community facilities are built from the royalties and taxes already paid by the mining industry to state and local government. Yet we have seen, lamentably, a downturn in investment in mining.

The Labor Party and the Greens do not understand this. They see an industry doing well for 12 months or 24 months and they think they can tax it. But what they do is tax it out of existence. I hope that the Labor Party are going to follow the promise of the leader of the Labor Party ticket in Western Australia—a Mr Bullock, who I have never heard of, although he has probably never heard of me either. Mr Bullock has promised that they are going to get rid of the carbon tax. On the day he was promising to do that, his colleagues in this chamber voted against the repeal bill. So who knows where they stand? Senator Pratt, who is facing annihilation at the Western Australian Senate election next Saturday, has actually claimed that Kevin Rudd already got rid of the mining tax and the carbon tax. Yet we see the Labor Party, when presented with the opportunity to get rid of the carbon tax just last week, failing to do so.

Neither Senator Pratt nor Senator Ludlam, both Western Australian senators, will be taking part in the debate here in the chamber on this issue of vital importance to Western Australia. They are both over there trying to save their political skins. I hope the Labor Party understand the mandate the coalition were given at the last election to remove the mining tax and I hope they pursue that at the by-election in Western Australia.

Back to List