Miners rush to pile pressure on Gillard

Queensland mining billionaire Clive Palmer has called on new prime minister Julia Gillard to formally abandon the controversial resources super profits tax proposal.

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Mr Palmer, who has been highly critical of the federal government’s plans for the new tax, said a mining industry campaign had helped ensure Mr Rudd was dumped as leader.

“This is the first time in Australia’s history that a prime minister has been defeated by a civil campaign of anger,” Mr Palmer told AAP via telephone from London, where he’s on a business trip.

“Have a look when we first started this campaign where he was, and where he was at the end of it.

“I would call on her (Ms Gillard) to make a clear statement that there will be no resources rent tax so that the industry can get back to providing Australians with jobs,” Mr Palmer said.

Mineral Council suspends ads

The Mineral Council of Australia suspended its ad campaign against the RSPT, in keeping with the deal Gillard offered in her opening speech.

The new PM said the government would pull its television and billboard advertisments about the RSPT if the mining industry did the same.

“We congratulate the Prime Minister and look forward to working with her,” MCA chief executive Mitch Hooke told reporters in Melbourne.

“We have accepted the government’s invitation to engage in consultations and the board determined to suspend advertising as a gesture of goodwill in the expectation that those consultations will be meaningful, constructive around the minerals taxation reform,” he said.

“That they will address all of the key design parameters that the industry has had difficultly working through – that’s the rate, international competitiveness, sovereign risk, differentiation, competitive neutrality – all the issues that are fundamental to the design in particular of this difficult issue of retrospectivity.”

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies Inc took a harder line, calling for “an immediate and complete withdrawal of the proposed toxic mining tax in order to restore Australia`s reputation as a safe, reliable and financially attractive place in which to invest”.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd chief executive Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest also reiterated his call to axe the tax.

Rudd’s demise

Since the announcement of the new tax, expected to reap $12 billion in its first two years, Mr Rudd had a steady fall in popularity in the face of an extensive advertising campaign from the mining lobby.

In her first press conference following her election, Ms Gillard said the mining sector needed to be negotiated with over the new tax, not just consulted.

Mr Palmer, a Liberal Party donor, said he still had concerns that Mr Swan, one of the architects of the RSPT proposal, had been named as deputy leader.

“You have got to ask yourself, `is there a real change or is this being done for cosmetic reasons to dupe the people?'” he said.

Mr Palmer later said Ms Gillard’s comments on the tax proposal since being elected prime minister had gone far enough.

“She is basically saying the words of the previous prime minister,” Mr Palmer said.

“Her comments are nothing new,” he said.

Mr Palmer said there was no question about negotiations, because he did not accept the principle that mining should be taxed more heavily than other activities.

“The prime minister needs to accept that principle,” he said.

BHP optimistic

BHP Billiton said it was encouraged by Gillard’s commitment to open the doors to miners, and immediately suspended its advertising campaign against a controversial tax proposal.

“We are encouraged by the comments of (Ms Gillard), that her government will open the doors for negotiation with the objective of achieving consensus,” the world’s biggest resources company said on Thursday.

“The industry has consistently been calling for the government to take the time to properly engage on all aspects of the tax, and we welcome the opportunity to do so.

“In response to the new prime minister’s request, we have immediately asked our agencies to suspend all advertising as a sign of good faith,” the company said.

“We look forward to working with the government in this new way to find a solution that is in the national interest,” it said.

Chamber of Minerals calls ceasefire

Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy called a “ceasefire” in the advertising battle with the federal government over the new mining tax, but did not rule out relaunching the campaign against the resources super profit’s tax if negotiations sour.

“Our commitment is very clear that in return for the prime minister’s offer of pulling theirs (ads), we won’t be expanding ours in any way,” CME president Kim Horne told reporters on Thursday.

Mr Horne did not rule out more ads from the mining sector if talks go bad.

“I don’t think it would be sensible to rule out that possibility,” he said.

“We’re going into negotiations with an open mind.

“I’m sure if the prime minister doesn’t think that we’ve come up with the right answer, she’d be willing to reintroduce their advertising as well.

“This is a ceasefire,” he said.

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