Question Without Notice - Mining

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:35): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism. Minister, how is the government ensuring the benefits of the mining boom are spread throughout the Australian economy?

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Batman—Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (14:36): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. She, more than most members in this House, understands the importance of the mining boom and also appreciates, due to the diverse nature of the South Coast of New South Wales, the impact it is having on other sections of her local community.

The member for Cunningham is very supportive of the fact that, at the moment, mining industry companies in Australia are actually making record profits. The message she has received from the Australian community, which was under the pump because of the impact of the resources sector on the broader community, is that the rest of the community actually needs a helping hand. That is what the debate on the mining tax is about. It is about how we spread the benefit of this boom to the broader Australian community. That is not about stifling investment.

The record speaks for itself. Contrary to the arguments presented by the coalition in this House today, there is no sovereign risk. In Australia at the moment, $430 billion is planned or committed to capital investment.

Look at the skyrocketing of investment—from $35 billion in 2009-10 to an expected $80 billion in 2011-12. And there is more significant investment to come Australia's way. It is built off the back of record commodity prices and good profits—and we are very, very pleased for those companies.

But the time has come to spread these benefits to ensure, for example, that we assist the tourism industry. That is not to deny that there is going to continue to be job growth in the mining sector. Importantly, jobs growth in the mining sector has continued, with almost 30,000 jobs created in 2010-11. It is also expected that at least 70,000 new operational jobs will be created in the mining sector by 2015. That is good for young people seeking a terrific career opportunity.

But we also have to make sure that we look after small business. I find it amazing that the coalition is opposed to cutting taxation for small businesses, many of which actually operate in the tourism sector I have responsibility for, and is actually willing to vote against giving them some assistance in the purchase of new capital equipment. Why should they not have that assistance, given the huge impact that the strength of the Australian dollar is having on them at the moment, both in terms of international visitation and the fact that so many Australians are doing well and are going overseas for a holiday? We have to make sure that we assist small business through this change in mining taxation.

More importantly, it is supported by many, many mining companies in Australia, because in some ways they are embarrassed by the profits they are receiving at the moment and they think it is their social responsibility to spread the benefits to the Australian community. It would also mean that we would have the capacity to invest in infrastructure which is not only important to the resources sector but also important to the tourism sector. The Gateway project in Western Australia to improve airport access is a prime example of benefits going not only to the resources sector but to the whole Australian community.

In conclusion, it is about time the coalition fronted up to its social responsibilities to ensure that all Australians get a fair share of this once-in-a-century opportunity, this resources boom. Step back and review your position and do not be so antagonistic to sharing these benefits and so denying small business and those sections of the Australian community who are actually doing it a little bit tough at this point in our history.