PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has bluntly warned the mining industry that mineral resources belong to all Australians and Labor is determined to spread the benefits of the boom to working people.
Rejecting industry criticism of the rising costs of mining in Australia, Ms Gillard said Australia’s economy was the envy of the world and there was no better place to invest.
”And here’s the rub. You don’t own the minerals. I don’t own the minerals. Governments only sell you the right to mine the resource, a resource we hold in trust for a sovereign people,” she told a mining industry dinner in Canberra last night.
Advertisement: Story continues below
”There’s nowhere in the world you’d be better off investing. And there’s nowhere in the world where mining has a stronger future. And this is Australia, and it has a Labor government.”
The defiant speech came as the government began ramping up the campaign to promote its compensation measures before the July 1 start of the carbon tax – and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott conceded a Coalition government could struggle to implement its promise to repeal the tax.
Tax cuts, allowances and student bonuses rolled out in coming weeks will mean some families receive more than $2500.
In an earlier speech to the Minerals Council of Australia conference in Canberra, Mr Abbott renewed the Coalition’s pledge to dump both the $23 per tonne carbon tax and Labor’s 30 per cent tax on large iron ore and coalmining profits.
But he gave his strongest indication yet that Labor’s efforts to ”Abbott-proof” both taxes could make the promises difficult to achieve.
”There is no doubt that there are measures associated with both the mining tax and the carbon tax that will be difficult to undo,” Mr Abbott conceded.
This could include contracts already in place, loans made from the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will fund green energy projects, and payments made to shut down heavily polluting coal-fired power stations.
Mr Abbott claimed ”fiscal discipline” would ensure a Coalition government delivered promised tax cuts and pension increases without a carbon tax.
Rio Tinto managing director David Peever told the Canberra conference that the mining industry was being challenged by cost pressures, volatile commodity prices and policy uncertainty. ”We are at the mercy of the global economy,” he said.
A report to the conference said rising business costs threatened to shelve some big projects, including the Olympic Dam expansion in South Australia.
But Ms Gillard told the industry leaders that while mining had a proud tradition in Australia and Australians respected the hard work and enterprise of miners, the rewards must be shared.
”I know you’re not all in love with the language of spreading the benefits of the boom,” she said
While miners worked hard, competed in a tough global environment and took big risks, they also earned big profits.
”Australians don’t begrudge hard work and we admire your success,” she said.
”But I know this too: they work pretty hard in car factories and at panel beaters and in police stations and hospitals too.”
Increased family payments instead of company tax cuts in the budget were part of the government’s commitment that all Australians benefit from mining wealth. ”They own it and they deserve their share,” she said.