Guess who thinks the mining tax is working well?

February 17, 2013
Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto says the Mineral Resource Rent Tax is working as designed.

Guess who thinks the Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) is working well?

Sorry, but there's no prize if you guessed right.

“The MRRT was designed as a tax on super profits on the mining industry and importantly the tax is actually operating as it was physically designed," mining giant Rio Tinto's new chief executive Sam Walsh told AAP.

Err, yes, very well designed — for some — by a Gillard government fresh from the ALP leadership coup, with more than a little help from the biggest mining companies.

Walsh admitted that Rio Tinto paid no MRRT last year and “declined to estimate” how much MRRT the company would pay this year.

Rio Tinto listed a nearly $3 billion net loss this year, after huge write-downs of its assets. This was the company’s first posted loss and its former CEO fell on his sword.

But curiously, despite this “loss”, Rio Tinto has boosted its full-year dividend by 15%.

Some light was shed on the design flaws — though a mining company CEO might call them strengths — of the MRRT by federal treasury secretary Martin Parkinson, under grilling at the Senate economics committee.

Treasury, he admitted, was forecasting a first-year MRRT revenue of $3 billion without having any idea of the cost of the concessions and deductions given to the biggest mining companies by the Gillard government after the ALP leadership coup.

Under what up to now was a purely theoretical 30% MRRT on the super profits of coal and iron ore miners, the companies' state royalties can be credited back to them if they are liable for MRRT, including any increases in royalty rates imposed by the states.

After admitting that the MRRT had a design flaw, Labor's minister for regional Australia, Simon Crean, still insisted that the tax “is not being redesigned”.

Years of bitter experience teaches us that both Labor and Liberal governments loyally serve the interest of the big corporations. An old saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. Every year millions of dollars are donated by these powerful interests into the coffers of the major parties, reminding them who they are really there to serve, should they become the government.

A noisy and persistent dissenting voice like Green Left Weekly has to raise its funds through the donations of ordinary people.

Think of Crean and the monotonous pro-mining company tune he plays on and on. Get angry and make a donation this week to Green Left's $250,000 Fighting Fund.

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