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Labor and the Greens on the Carbon Tax debate

By Tristan Ewins - posted Friday, 8 April 2011


Debate on Company Tax cuts is beginning to gain momentum in Canberra with Gillard Labor, independents and the Greens at odds over what comprises the best policy. That debate is more broadly framed in the context of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), and a declared intent by Labor to direct new revenue into corporate tax cuts and infrastructure (especially in the ‘mining states’ of WA and Queensland), and in the process to provide room for an increase in superannuation contributions by business.

Therefore it’s probably best to explain the background of the MRRT before going into the debates that hinge on the treatment of revenue thus gained - and how all this relates to the other crucial debate on Carbon Tax reform.

During the 2010 debate David Richardson – writing for On Line Opinion – explained that the real effective rate paid by the miners in 2010 was 19 per cent, as opposed to 24 per cent for the corporate sector more broadly. To correct this the originally-proposed tax on ‘super profits’ aimed to affect profits above the government bond rate – then at 5.8 per cent.

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The aim was to garner a fair share of profits from the sector for ordinary Australians who collectively own the non-renewable resources which the mining companies profit from.

But elements of the mining industry spent an estimated $22 million on advertisements undermining Rudd Labor in an effort that effectively brought down a Prime Minister. Mining concerns would have remained viable and profitable. But the scare campaign: threatening disinvestment and job losses – found its mark.

While the original tax was to be levied at 40 per cent, the heavily diluted version negotiated by Gillard will apply at 30 per cent on profits over the long-term government bond rate plus 7 per cent.

Allowances and concessions will see an “effective statutory tax rate [of] 22.5%”.

And the newer version will also only apply to coal and iron ore, excluding other minerals including gold, nickel and uranium.

The original Resource Super Profits Tax would have raised approximately $12 billion over its first two years.

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But the revised Minerals Resource Rent Tax will see a significant reduction in revenue compared to the original proposal.

To be more specific: In 2010 Gillard Labor estimated the compromise would cost $1.5 billion less over the first two years than under the original package.

But Treasury estimates suppose a gap in the vicinity of $60 billion over ten years; with some others projecting that the shortfall could be closer to $100 billion.

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About the Author

Tristan Ewins has a PhD and is a freelance writer, qualified teacher and social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia. He is also a long-time member of the Socialist Left of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). He blogs at Left Focus, ALP Socialist Left Forum and the Movement for a Democratic Mixed Economy.
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