No Greens deal on mining tax: Ferguson

Federal Resource Minister Martin Ferguson has vowed not to do a Senate deal with the Greens on the mining tax, assuring miners that the government will stick by its agreement with the industry.

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Mr Ferguson assured Queensland miners that the Greens would not be tinkering with the agreement should they gain the balance of power in the Senate at the next election.

“You sound surprised,” he joked, speaking at a Queensland Resources Council lunch in Brisbane on Tuesday.

“In two and a half years I’ve never had a meeting with (Greens Leader) Bob Brown.

“I take the view Bob Brown is seeking to demonise the coal industry in the same way which he sought to demonise the forest industry.

“Our position is what we will take to the election. If we win the election it’s our mandate.”

Senator Brown told AAP while touring farming communities in the Darling Downs on Tuesday that he was challenging Mr Ferguson to break convention and appear before a Senate inquiry into the new tax.

“We will ensure that a senate inquiry goes through Martin Ferguson’s deal with the coal miners … before we would move to give it the tick he wants,” Mr Brown said.

“Ministers don’t normally appear before senate inquiries, but I ask Martin Ferguson now to commit himself to coming before that Senate inquiry to explain how the deal was done, what commitments we don’t know about were made, and what long-term impact it will have on Australia’s tax revenue.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last Friday dropped the proposed 40 per cent resources super profits tax and replaced it with a 30 per cent minerals resource rent tax to be levied only on iron ore and coal producers.

Only 320 companies will be affected by the new tax measure instead of 2,500.

The tax will come into effect on July 1, 2012, and the federal government hopes to have draft legislation finalised by the middle of next year.

Mr Ferguson said the debate was always about the amount of tax and not the tax itself.

“I believe the pressure must go back on the coalition. Industry has actually signed up to this package,” Mr Ferguson said.

“All along industry accepted there was room to pay more tax. They actually argued for a profits-based tax.

“The only party standing in the way of this fair outcome is the coalition.

“Clearly from our point of view there’s an expectation that industry should be clearly indicating to the coalition they believe the outcome is fair.”

Mr Ferguson said a committee he will chair with former BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus would work through the implementation details of the tax with miners large and small.

He said the committee would also look at whether exploration rebates were necessary, given the lukewarm response to them under the original proposal.

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