Subjects: Mining tax
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well if you ever needed an example of how the mining industry is running the country today it is a classic case. This morning we had an announcement from Minister Burke that the mining industry is now dictating that the Tarkine, fabulous area in Tasmania, is not to be listed in the National Heritage listing for its natural values because Minister Burke, the Minister for the environment, has said no to the protection of the environment, yes to mining. And now we've had the release of the revenue from the Mineral Resource Rent tax. What we found, $126 million - it is shockingly low. This is from a Government that said it wanted to spread the benefits of the boom. This is the Government that said it was prepared to take on the mining industry but now what we've seen is that the miners once again have had a big win over Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan over the negotiation of this tax. It's shockingly low and I'm really glad that the Greens have been able to move in the Parliament to have these figures are released. Now that the community has got the figures, only $126 million, it's time that we fixed this tax so that we actually raise money from the big mining companies, so that we've got it to spend on public education, on Denticare, on national disability insurance, all the things that the community wants.
The Greens had work done by the Parliamentary Budget Office to say that if we blocked the loophole in this tax, if we said that we would not reimburse beyond 1 July 2011, money that would go back as a result of royalty increases, we would raise $2.2 billion. But further than that, if we actually stopped the very generous reimbursement and accelerated depreciation, you would get further billions, and if you increased the tax to 40 percent, which Ken Henry had originally said, you would actually in total get $26 billion in revenue over the forward estimates. So the Greens are now keen to see now that we know it was shockingly low, $126 million, we are keen to see that money raised. We do welcome the fact that at his press conference the Treasurer has said that he is prepared to look at other factors other than the commodity prices and look at this issue presumably of the accelerated depreciation, we welcome that. But we have a bill in the Parliament in order to block the loopholes, we will work with the Government if Wayne Swan is prepared to do so. But Adam will be moving in the House.
ADAM BANDT: It's now clear that Labor's mining tax is a dud. If we don't fix this mining tax before the budget there are going to be more cuts to people like single parents and there won't be enough money to fund public schools reform. I will be introducing a bill into the House of Representatives on Monday to plug one of the loopholes in the mining tax. It will mean the Government won't have to give money back to the miners every time state premiers choose to raise their royalties. That would raise us an extra $2.2 billion over the forward estimates, money that will be available to schools, money that will be available to make sure people like single parents don't get slugged. The bill has support from members of the crossbench, if there's any silver lining from today's announcement by the Treasurer, it's that he has opened the door to Labor getting behind the Greens' push to fix the mining tax. We will be pressing ahead with this bill in the House. If Labor does not get behind this bill of the Greens to fix the mining tax, Gina Rinehart will be rubbing her hands together because she will know that she's got both Labor and Liberal in her pockets and that this Government is not prepared to stand up to big business and the mining industry to raise the revenue that Australians expect.
JOURNALIST: Senator Milne isn't this inherently what the tax is about, Treasurer Wayne Swan was saying when revenues are up the tax receipts go up and when they go down and they go down, isn't that what this tax is all about?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well this tax should have been the super profits tax in the first place, as Treasury said we should be getting 40 percent in terms of the tax rate. And whilst commodity prices have gone down they are still at historically high levels in terms of those resources. And so the Australian people deserve a fair return. It is disgraceful that the Gillard Government has been prepared to let the miners off the hook but instead raid the pockets and the wallets of single parents around the country. That just isn't fair. And that's why the community is getting really frustrated that the Gillard Government is prepared to shield the mining, the big mining industry from paying its fair share. That's what we want to see, that's why we want to block the loopholes in the tax, that's why we want to raise the rate, we want to get that money for public education, for Denticare, for national disability, and to restore fairness and justice by increasing the Newstart allowance.
JOURNALIST: How did this figure rate with what you were expecting? Is it worse than what you though it was?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes I'm surprised that it is as low as it is. However the Government really didn't hide the fact that nothing was raised in the first quarter. Now they're suggesting that $126 million is a reasonable return. That is nonsense. They predicted $4 billion, then $3 billion, then it was modified to be $2 billion and actually it's $126 million. Now where does that stand with Wayne Swan saying he's going to take on the rich in order to get a fair return to people? That hasn't happened. He's taken more millions out of the pockets of single parents than the mining industry has paid collectively in this tax. That is not fair, that is Labor not standing up to the big mining industry against the interests of ordinary people.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel like you've been played a bit here? Given that you gave your support for this tax?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well what I'm pleased about is that what was illegal earlier in the week is now legal. Extraordinary to have had minister after minister explaining why they couldn't release these figures and then when the Greens moved in the Parliament to say yes you must adhere to the transparency agreement you made with the Greens, suddenly the figures are available. So I'm pleased about that. I think the people who have been played with the mining tax is the Australian community. We had a super profits tax. Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan renegotiated that with the miners because they ran a $20 million advertising campaign that spooked the Labor Party. Fact. Gina Rinehart spooked the Labor Party, spooked Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan and they gave in to them and the result is this poor revenue return.
JOURNALIST: You teamed up with the Coalition in the Senate to force this information out, obviously strange bedfellows here, the Coalition will be using these details to prove that, to call for the mining tax to be scrapped completely, does that sit uneasily with you?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well what sits uneasily with us is the fact that the Coalition is not prepared to get any money back from the mining industry, in fact not only is the Coalition wanting to scrap the tax but it wants to actually have this ridiculous plan to open up northern Australia to a different tax zone altogether, to make even more concessions. I mean this is Gina Rinehart on the back of an envelope, she has got the Coalition already on the back of an envelope plan to get rid of the mining tax and to open up the north, and give her everything she wants from labour laws and differential tax rates, and she's got Wayne Swan and the Prime Minister having agreed to a taxation arrangement that pays virtually nothing. If there's one party that will stand up to the mining industry, it's the Greens and it is against what we have got with the Coalition and Labor prepared to cave in to the big miners and not stand up for the community.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a preference for an option to improve the tax?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Yes we certainly do. The Greens have a bill in the Parliament and Adam Bandt will be moving it in the Reps this week in order to block the loophole which has the royalties being reimbursed to the mining companies. We intend to move on that this week and we call on the Government to support us. Remember Wayne Swan identified this as a loophole himself and he went out said he'd be talking to state governments in the context of redistributing the GST and also looking at other government grants. He's done nothing about it, it's all talk and no action. When it comes to the Treasurer actually fixing this, we want that done. He did open the door today to looking at the other measures which contribute to this absolutely low and shocking figure and that is these accelerated depreciation provisions. The Greens stand ready to vote with the Government to take away those accelerated depreciation provisions so we can raise the money for the community.
JOURNALIST: Would you like all of it? Or one step at a time or would you like the whole lot?
CHRISTINE MILNE: What we would like is the three provisions that the Greens have put up and that is: increase the tax to 40 percent, plug the loophole in terms of returning royalties and getting rid of those extremely generous accelerated depreciation provisions. That would raise $26 billion and there would be a cheer around the country from everybody who wants the Gonski report implemented for more money into public education, it means there would be real dollars going to national disability, and we would have Denticare with the community being able to celebrate the fact that at last there were decent dental provisions across the country for everyone. So there would be a cheer across the nation if the Greens got that, but unfortunately both Tony Abbott and Wayne Swan and the Prime Minister are too afraid of Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer et al to actually take them on.
JOURNALIST: Senator Milne, other than Wayne Swan's comments in his press conference today have you had any direct undertakings from the Government they will consider the Bill on Monday?
CHRISTINE MILNE: No we haven't had any indication from the Government, from the Treasurer, except that they have been clearly very reluctant to take this on. I did raise it with the Prime Minister towards the end of last year and made it clear that we would like their support or if they wanted to introduce it themselves we would support it if they did so. They haven't been prepared to move on that. That's why I've always said that for all Wayne Swan singing with Bruce Springsteen etc. he is not prepared to actually stand up to the miners, stand up to those absolutely wealthy companies in Australia and get for the community the return that we deserve.