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Super profits tax is a just impost on miners

By Gavin Mooney and Colin Penter - posted Friday, 14 May 2010

The hysteria from the mining industry in response to the proposed 40 per cent resources super profits tax demonstrates just how corporate Australia uses its political and financial power to protect its own privileged interests.

The West Australian in its editorials of May 3 and 8 has been one of the few voices to alert the public to some of the potential benefits of the tax.

Andrew Forrest, of Fortescue Metals Group, accuses the Prime Minister of misleading the public; he himself comes out with the nonsense comment that a tax of 40 per cent on excess profits is equivalent to a 40 per cent nationalisation of the mining industry. Clive Palmer, another of the “big miners”, suggests Kevin Rudd is “a communist”. These “big miners” even claim that they oppose the tax to protect working families.


We all knew they would attack the tax, fair enough, but could we have known what sillinesses they would employ in doing so? These statements are from the captains of industry who pay themselves massive incomes to run these mining organisations.

Oh and if Mr Rudd is a communist, what does this say about Ken Henry, the Treasury Secretary, whose idea this was. Reds not under the bed but in the Treasury, good heavens!

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop further fuels the notion of a communist plot by suggesting that the idea of the tax is straight from the pages of Marx’s Das Kapital (The West Australian May 8). Hysterical responses are not limited to the big miners.

Let’s put this in some sort of perspective. Mining companies are granted privileged and exclusive access to resources that are owned by the Australian people. That is the source of their excess profits.

Some relevant figures. In 2006-07 mineral production totalled $100 billion, of which the Australian community, which owns the resources, received little more than 7 per cent in tax revenue.

As the Henry review demonstrates, as a proportion of profits, mineral tax and royalties have declined over the past decade, as the share of the profits made by the mining and resources industry has increased exponentially.


The idea, too, that many jobs will be lost as a result of this tax does not stand up to examination. Total employment in the mining industry is only a little over 130,000.

Furthermore, the mining industry causes significant economic, social and environmental harm to the Australian public as a result of the industry’s activities. Surely it is for the perpetrators to contribute to ameliorating these harms.

In Australia in general what has been happening to profits? Between 1960 and 1980, as a percentage of GDP wages rose from 52 per cent to over 60 per cent while corporate profits remained mostly under 20 per cent. Over the 25 years to 2005, wages fell to 53 per cent while corporate profits increased markedly to over 27 per cent.

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First published in The West Australian on May 12, 2010.

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About the Authors

Gavin Mooney is a health economist and Honorary Professor at the Universities of Sydney and Cape Town. He is also the Co-convenor of the WA Social Justice Network . See

Colin Penter is a self employed researcher, consultant social scientist, writer and social activist based in Perth. For the past 16 years he has consulted and undertaken research on social justice and social policy issues throughout Australia for government and non-government agencies. He has been active in civil society and NGO’s for over 30 years and blogs on civil society and NGO issues. He has taught on these issues in tertiary, community and professional and school settings. He is the co-convenor of the WA Social Justice Network and coordinates the Challenging the Market Project and Nemesis Project, initiatives of the WA Social Justice Network. He also blogs on social and political issues at

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Gavin Mooney
All articles by Colin Penter

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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