Mining tax lives on as repeal fails

A MOVE by Labor and the Greens to block the government’s repeal of the mining tax in the Senate has sparked fresh debate over the contentious policy.
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Andrew Duffy

The Coalition’s bill aimed to repeal the Minerals Resource Rent Tax but also included the removal of low-income superannuation benefits and payments to the children of killed veterans.

It was defeated 35 votes to 32, with Labor and the Greens making late use of their control of the Senate before the changeover in July.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said Labor’s move to block the repeal would hurt the mining industry and broader economy.

“The resources sector is one of our economic powerhouses,” he said.

“By voting to keep the MRRT, the Labor Party has shown it doesn’t care about safeguarding billions of dollars of future investment or the tens of thousands of jobs the mining industry supports.

“This is a tax that has hit mining companies with layers of red tape and tens of millions of dollars of compliance costs. But at the same time the mining tax is generating virtually no income.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also joined the fray, accusing the Opposition of taking an “anti-Western Australian” stance ahead of a rerun of the WA senate election.

“The mining tax is a complex and distorting tax which was designed by Labor to target WA,” he said.

“It is bad for the economy, bad for confidence, bad for investment and bad for jobs in WA.”

Greens Leader Christine Milne said scrapping the tax would do no favours for everyday Australians and would only benefit the profits of BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Rio Tinto.

"The Abbott government is for the big end of town – make no mistake,” she said.

"Instead of helping communities take a fairer share of these profits, the Abbott government's mining tax repeal would have put the tax burden back on workers earning less than $37,000 each year.

"Taxing the super contributions of these workers would put a big dent in the retirement savings of 3.6 million Australians and would affect one in two working women – and that's just one example of the impacts of this repeal.”

Milne said the Greens’ position on the mining tax had not changed.

“We want a mining tax in the form it was recommended by the Henry tax review,” she said.

“We believe that instead of repealing it at the behest of big business, this tax should be strengthened.”