Question Without Notice - Mining

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:39): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism. Will the minister update the House on the strong performance of the resources sector and why the government is making sure the government is making sure the benefits are shared by other sectors of the community?

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Batman—Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (14:40): I thank the member for Cunningham for the question. In doing so, I remind the House that this week we must finally determine whether we as a community are prepared to support a tax that the mining industry now supports. In doing so, this House has an opportunity to share the benefits of the resources boom that Australia is currently experiencing. The coalition, in their determination to vote down this tax, have to face up to the fact that they are voting against taxation relief for small business. I must say that that is very important to a broad section of small businesses in the Australian community. They must also face up to the fact that they are voting against the opportunity for small business to have an automatic capital write-off of $6,500. As Minister for Tourism, I remind the House that that is exceptionally important to the almost 280,000 enterprises in the tourism sector. It is also about making sure that where we are experiencing the pressures of the resources boom in the key petroleum areas, we have the capacity to invest in infrastructure and, in doing so, to ensure Australia's opportunity to grasp every available increase with respect to export opportunities.

In terms of this debate, I notice that the opposition were out there yesterday reinforcing their determination to vote down this tax. But when questioned about the alternative, they basically said, 'We have a smarter opportunity, and that is to increase royalties.' In essence they said: when it comes to the MRRT there is sovereign risk but not with respect to the opportunities of state premiers and treasurers to increase royalties willy-nilly. When it comes to assisting small- and medium-sized businesses, they say the MRRT is wrong, but increases in royalties do not impact on small- and medium-sized businesses. They also say that, in essence, state royalties represent a better opportunity in terms of increasing taxation in Australia. That is contrary to the view of the mining industry, who very firmly believe that profits based tax system is the best system for the mining industry. The mining industry have said in no uncertain terms that in times of high commodity prices they are prepared to put their hands in their pockets and share the benefits of the resources boom with the whole of the Australian community.

There is no risk to investment in Australia. The facts speak for themselves. We have a planned and committed capital investment pipeline of $430 billion. In the resources and energy sector alone, ABARE and BRS reported earlier this year that there were 94 projects in an advanced stage of development, with a record capital expenditure of $173.5 billion—a 31 per cent increase from October this year through to April. The report then talks about recent decisions: Olympic Dam—a potential $30 billion investment—the biggest open-cut mine in the world. There is the Wheatstone project with a recent investment of $29 billion.

The time has come for this parliament to determine once and for all whether or not it is prepared to support the MRRT, which the mining industry largely supports, and in doing so to spread the benefits or yet again see further displays of hypocrisy. Royalties affect and hurt small- and medium-sized businesses. An increase in royalties represents a real sovereign risk issue because they are retrospective in nature. (Time expired)