By Christine Milne*
The big miners get off scot-free in Tony Abbott’s brutal budget. BHP is on track for a mind-boggling $13.5 billion profit, while last year Rio Tinto earned $10 billion and Glencore Xstrata had a $3 billion after-tax bonanza.
Mr Abbott is not content that we’ve already sacrificed desperately needed public services because the big three have by-and-large avoided paying any mining tax. He swears that there is still more to be done.
His next step was the repeal of the carbon price. That saved mining companies about $574 million for not having to pay for the heat-trapping methane that escapes from coal mines and coal seam gas wells.
But sadly, lost in all the bluster of the debate was something much more sinister. Buried within the repeal laws was the removal of the carbon charge that applied to petrol and diesel used by mining companies. It was pegged to the rate of the abolished emission trading scheme.
Now the mining companies, such as Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy group and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting don’t have to pay a single cent in tax for their fuel.
Of the $18 billion in lost revenue over the next four years from the abolition of the emissions trading scheme, $1.6 billion of that was purely a gift from Mr Abbott to the miners, or in the case of Clive Palmer a nice little present for his companies.
So much for a budget emergency. To put that $1.6 billion gift into perspective, it more than covers the $1.2 billion saving provided by the Government’s cruel proposal to force those under 30 who can’t find any work to live without any income for six months, denying them the dignity of purchasing their own food, seeing a doctor when sick or living in reliable and secure accommodation.
If a jobseeker filled up their car on their way to an interview they would pay 38 cents in each litre to the Government, just like everyone else. Meanwhile these multi-billion-dollar mining companies don’t pay a single cent in tax. They call it a Fuel Tax Credit. We call it a Fossil Fuel Subsidy and a blatant rort.
When Parliament returns after the winter break, the Greens will be introducing a bill to take this joyride away so that the big miners no longer get off scot-free in Mr Abbott’s brutal budget. The bill will abolish all fossil fuel subsidies, except for agricultural purposes, so farmers will not be impacted.
In this year’s BRW Rich List, Gina Rinehart came in as Australia’s richest person valued at $20 billion – clearly above the Government’s tough-on-welfare income threshold. So she will be exempt in her recently signed $200 million deal with Caltex to provide her iron ore mine with 120 million litres of fuel.
Under our current laws, Joe Hockey will be writing her a cheque for $45.6 million for this agreement. Meanwhile the ABC and SBS are being handed $43.5 million in budget cuts.
To put it simply, the Greens want the big end of town to pay its fair share so that we can continue to improve the vital public services that Australians cherish.
The G20, IMF, OECD and World Bank have all urged governments to stop providing subsidies for fossil fuel use. These are the institutions that define what the economic orthodoxy is.
Australia made a commitment to the international community that we, like the other G20 countries would phase out our fossil fuel subsidies because they favourably distort the use of dirty sources of energy over clean ones. Mr Abbott has just placed this agreement on his pile of international agreements to be ignored.
By taking away miners’ tax-free fuel the Abbott Government could uphold Australia’s international commitment and raise $13 billion over the next four years alone. The offer is there for the Government.
Come on Mr Hockey, stop moaning, if you are serious about fixing the structural deficiencies in the budget, this bill can become law in a matter of weeks with our support in the Senate.
Mr Abbott was wrong to ask everyday Australians to dig deeper for his brutal budget. Now it is time for him to ask those that are already doing the digging to return some of our resources and share the wealth before the boom is over.
* Christine Milne is the Australian Greens leader and Senator for Tasmania. This article originally appeared on The Drum. The views expressed here should be understood as the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Greens on this matter.