States digest resource compromise

Labor state leaders have uniformly greeted the federal government’s new resources tax deal with relief, saying it will provide investment security and a chance to move forward.

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But in the resource-rich state of Western Australia, the nation’s only Liberal leader, Colin Barnett, remains opposed to any commonwealth tax on mining, fearing the new regime could hurt small and mid-level companies.

The minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) proposal was announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday, breaking a damaging deadlock with the mining industry.

Barnett not impressed in WA

Mr Barnett conceded the new proposal was better than the “disastrous” one that preceded it, with a rise in the threshold level and a reduction in the tax rate from 40 to 30 per cent.

But he said the federal government should not have locked out from the negotiations mid-level and smaller mining companies, which were being encouraged in WA.

“It’s not an agreement with the broader mining industry and it’s certainly not an agreement with the states of Western Australia and I suspect Queensland and others,” Mr Barnett said.

A ‘relief’: Bligh

But in the other major resource state of Queensland, Premier Anna Bligh, who had been a critic of the tax, welcomed the new deal, saying it gave taxpayers a fair share while ensuring the resources industry remained strong.

“Frankly, it’s a relief to have this issue behind us. We can now move full steam ahead,” she said.

The new tax regime for key gas projects like LNG in Queensland would provide companies with adequate rewards for exploration and development, Ms Bligh said.

“Since the mining tax was proposed by the federal government, the Queensland government has consistently highlighted the fact that the LNG industry in Queensland is at a crucial stage of its development,” she said.

ALP Premiers satisfied

“The fact that it has received special attention as part of the negotiations is a great result for Queensland.”

Victorian Premier John Brumby said Canberra’s decision to scrap the controversial resources super profits tax would create a more stable investment environment.

“I think it’s great that that’s been settled,” he said.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann said common sense had prevailed and his state’s concerns, particularly over the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in the state’s north, had been addressed.

Mr Rann said he had been concerned about the original tax proposal, particularly given the increase in mining activity in South Australia.

In NSW, Acting Premier Carmel Tebbutt welcomed the deal as a chance to move on.

Retailiers worry

But Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said the new proposal would “hit retailers hard”, with the government backflipping on a company tax rate cut.

The new tax will garner $1.5 billion less revenue than the previously announced scheme.

The promised two percentage point cut in the corporate tax rate will now be just one percentage point for the foreseeable future.

“Due to tax concessions to the mining sector, the Gillard government has penalised all companies and small businesses that were due to benefit from the promised company tax cut,” Mr Zimmerman said in a statement.

The Investment and Financial Services Association, representing retail superannuation funds, welcomed the fact that compulsory increases in super payments from nine to 12 per cent of earnings would go ahead.

“Increasing superannuation to 12 per cent will ensure millions more Australians have an adequate retirement,” said chief executive John Brogden, a former NSW Liberal Party leader.

“Low income earners in particular will benefit greatly through the government’s $500 contribution, effectively cutting their super contributions tax to zero per cent.

“In essence, the value of super contributions made by low income earners will almost double.”

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) general president Tony Maher said the government had secured 90 per cent of the tax revenue projected in its original tax proposal.

“That was important because the money’s earmarked for super benefits and for regional infrastructure,” he said.

“I wish I could get 90 per cent of what I asked for in negotiations with the mining companies,” Mr Maher said.

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