Mining companies' best friend falls on sword

Martin Ferguson. Photo: Peter Boyle

The mining companies’ best friend in the federal Labor government, former resources minister Martin Ferguson, supported a Kevin Rudd comeback and fell on his sword after the Labor leadership spill-that-wasn't.

Ferguson said he was resigning from cabinet and retreating to the backbench on March 22.

He said: “The class-war rhetoric that started with the mining dispute of 2010 must cease. It is doing the Labor party no good."

He appealed for Labor to "govern for all Australians" like the Hawke and Keating governments supposedly did.

After Ferguson resigned, the mining industry peak bodies Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association and the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) saluted his achievements.

Both expressed the "highest regard" for his "deep understanding of the business".

Woodside Petroleum praised Ferguson as an "exceptional and supportive minister". Rio Tinto said his contribution to the industry had been "outstanding".

Rio Tinto's managing director for Australia, David Peever, said: "That the sector has continued to underpin Australia's economic growth and export performance in the face of such headwinds is in no small part due to the minister's efforts during his stewardship of such a vital area of the economy.''

The Queensland Resources Council and the MCA explicitly advised Prime Minister Julia Gillard to forget the "class war rhetoric''.

They can stop talking about the class war, but that won't make it disappear.

And the mining company bosses know about the reality of the class war because, with the help of Ferguson, they have been winning it.

Last year, the big mining companies accounted for 21.6% of all profits made in Australia, but they paid the lowest rate of tax on profits (13.9%) of any industry. Before the start of the current mining boom they paid about 40%.

This is how Ferguson and Labor and Liberal governments alike "govern for all Australians".

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