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Let’s not forget the poor miners . . .

I'm sure they'll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

I’m sure they’ll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

The high-fiving over the repeal of the carbon tax made me despair at the ignorance of our government – a battle lost but the war continues.

The Abbott government is preparing to axe the mining tax as its repeal bill passed the lower house for a second time on Thursday, with the government limiting debate to under two hours.

The coalition says the mining tax has failed to do its job, raising only $340 million since its introduction. Parliamentary secretary to the minister for finance Michael McCormack also said the tax undermined confidence in Australia as an investment destination and its reputation as resource supplier, which raises the obvious question asked by Chris Bowen, “If it doesn’t raise enough money, then how does it damage the mining industry?”

The total revenue in 2012 for BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum, Newcrest and Xstrata was A$167.23 billion. Add to that the revenues of the self-defined “small” miners. Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting alone made a $1.2 billion net profit in 2012. It is projected that in the next decade they will make at least another $600 billion

State governments will hand over $17.6 billion in mining subsidies over the next four years. The federal government will contribute $4.5 billion a year. That’s $36 billion over the next four years given to companies who are making superprofits from mining our limited resources. That would pay for a real NBN, or high speed rail, or all the programs that have been slashed by the Coalition and then some.

We are told we must encourage investment by mining companies because they underpin our economy. And yet the facts do not bear this out.

Take Glencore for example, our third largest mining company, who, according to an article in the SMH, paid no tax on the $15 billion profit they made over the last three years. To achieve this they employed aggressive tax avoidance measures, borrowing money at 9% and then relending it in interest free loans. Their profits largely go offshore to foreign shareholders.

”The truth is that Glencore Coal Investments Australia’s operations in Australia are, because of the Group’s business model, branch operations of the Swiss-domiciled parent entity, which uses the now dormant legal shell of an Australian body corporate in an attempt to hide the reality of its branch business in Australia.”

The company disputes this, saying it has paid approximately $3.4 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia over the last three years. Even if this is true, it’s a damn fine return for selling something you don’t own. I wonder how much it has received in subsidies during that time.

Mining companies are also unreliable employers. They quickly sack employees, often on the basis of what the resource market is doing, because profit is paramount.

In March the Australian reported:

“Glencore’s Ravensworth underground operation will be the first coal mine suspended by the Switzerland-based resources titan due to the sharp slide in prices for the fuel, although this follows hundreds of job cuts over the past year as the company looked to bolster the profitability of its sites.”

Followed by this in the Courier Mail last month:

“SWISS mining giant Glencore will shut its Newlands underground coal mine in central Queensland with the loss of 50 jobs next month, but eventually 196 jobs when production ceases next year.

Last year about 450 workers were axed from Newlands and Oaky Creek as the company restructured.”

Over the past two years, coal producers have slashed 12,000 jobs—more than 1,500 destroyed in the Hunter Valley and 8,000 in Queensland—with impunity.

Glencore’s Peter Freyberg claimed that the industry “isn’t as competitive as it should be,” and warned that “productivity, industrial relations and regulatory settings were factors impacting the industry’s competitiveness.”

The mining companies want the ability to hire and fire at will and “flexibility” to make instantaneous changes to work practices, such as shift rosters and the use of contract labour, to meet shifting production demands.

In February, the Abbott government quietly reopened a visa loophole that will allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, in a move that unions say will bring back widespread rorting of the system.

Before the loophole was closed in 2013 by the Labor government, companies in the mining, construction and IT industries were knowingly hiring hundreds more foreign workers than they had applied for.

In one example, an employer was granted approval for 100 visas over three years, but in 18 months he had brought in 800 workers under the 457 visa.

In the Coalition’s bid to remove all ”red tape” from the 457 skilled migrant visa, employers will not be penalised or scrutinised if they hire more foreign staff than they applied for.

Before the cap was introduced in 2013, the number of 457 visas was quickly rising. In the financial year 2009/10 there were 67,980 visas granted. By 2012/13 there were 126,350 visas granted, statistics from the Department of Immigration show.

The Coalition has put together a panel to review 457 visas. In typical fashion, they have changed the rules before the panel has done its review though, considering the panel members, its recommendations will probably be in line with whatever the business sector wants. There are four members on the panel: John Azarias, from Deloitte Australia; Professor Peter McDonald, of the Australian National University; Katie Malyon, from Ernst & Young; and Jenny Lambert, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

FIFO work arrangements, meant for special circumstances such as geographical isolation, are now increasingly becoming the order of the day.

Gone are the days when companies invested in social infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals to make mining towns liveable. These days more than 100,000 workers spend up to 5 weeks at a time away from their families. FIFO workers report high levels of stress and there is a high level of turnover; one out of three FIFO workers will not last more than a year on the job. And for those who do find themselves living in mining towns, the pressure on local transport, housing and hospitals is creating significant social problems.

Following their A$22 million scaremongering TV ad campaign, the revamped Mining Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) now only applies to 22.5 per cent of the mining magnates’ profits, after a questionable “extraction allowance”. And that 22.5 per cent only applies only on coal and iron ore and only on companies that make over $50m in profit.

The Greens asked the PBO to calculate how much could be raised from increasing the tax rate to 40 per cent, plugging loopholes and including all minerals that make super profits, such as gold.

The office said these measures would raise $26.2 billion in the years to 2016/17.

PEFO anticipated $4.4 billion in revenue would be collected from the watered down mining tax over the forward estimates. MYEFO cut that to $3.4 billion. The Coalition intend to give up this revenue at the expense of the following spending commitments:

  1. Abolishing the low income superannuation contribution, with an estimated saving of $3.8 billion. This policy required the Commonwealth Government pay up to $500 a year to the superannuation accounts of certain low income earners.

  2. Unwinding the instant asset write-off for small business with a $5,000 threshold, saving $2.3 billion. This policy allowed small businesses to write off depreciating assets costing less than $6,500, and the first $5,000 was offset against the mining tax.

  3. Slowing the superannuation guarantee increase so it remains fixed at 9.25 per cent until 2016–17 before increasing incrementally to reach 12 per cent by 2021–22. Estimated saving $1.6 billion.

  4. Discontinuing the company loss carry-back, a benefit for small businesses, saving $950 million.

  5. Dismantling the accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles, saving $450 million.

  6. Ending geothermal exploration treatment, saving $10 million.

  7. Scrapping the Income Support Bonus, which includes payments to the children of veterans and is a lump-sum supplementary payment made twice a year to people on certain income support payment. Estimated saving $1.1 billion.

  8. Abolishing the Schoolkids Bonus, a lump-sum payment to parents of school-aged children twice a year. It is the largest single savings measure in the repeal bill, estimated at over $5.2 billion, even though the Schoolkids Bonus was not from the mining tax, but an alternative payment which replaced the previous Education Tax refund.

Why we are encouraging people to come and dig up our finite resources with foreign workers to send the profits overseas, subsidising them to do so, eliminating environmental safeguards and workplace conditions, and then repealing a small tax on their superprofits, is absolutely beyond me. And as can be seen by the above list, it is largely middle and low income earners and small businesses who will pay for this largesse shown to the mining companies who rape our nation to fill their shareholders’ purses.

Life according to the Coalition.

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38 comments

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  1. Phillip Spencer

    I wonder what Abbott, Hockey, Corman and the rest are getting from supporting big business? My marketing teacher always said the most popular radio station was WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) I wonder what is in it for them?

  2. Kaye Lee

    Political donations, jobs after politics, support for campaigns, brushing shoulders with celebrities…there are many reasons why the Liberals like to keep wealthy people happy.

  3. Sir ScotchMistery

    You know how if you rent a portion of a big building, you get to decide the name of the building?

    The coal mining industry is the same.

    As soon as they buy something, they get to name it so so Australia has the ALP and the COALition.

    But hell… what’s in a name. As a country we are too thick to listen to the nuances.

  4. Winifred Jeavons

    Clearly this mob buy the Thatcher line ‘no such thing as society’ . All Christians believe and many act on the opposite premise.Without their charity work this government would have to do a lot more and spend a lot more to avoid real social problems .

  5. Christopher Skinner

    The plain and simple fact is that the Taxation system is penalising the poor and rewarding the rich, this is so wrong in what is supposed to be an egalitarian society.

  6. Kaye Lee

    To just underline the society we now live in…..

    Tony Abbott’s $1.7bn cut to the Commonwealth Home Support Program will affect services including Meals on Wheels, respite care, cleaning, maintenance and other in-home services for elderly Australians living in their homes.

    The government said the $1.7bn in savings from this measure would be directed to repairing the budget.

    A $1.5bn scheme to fund wage increases for the aged-care workforce will also be scrapped, but the money will be redirected into boosting subsidies to aged-care providers by 2.4 per cent.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/budget-2014/cuts-to-aged-care-to-rake-innbsp25bn/story-fnmbxr2t-1226916709506

  7. Terry2

    Quite clearly. Phillip Spencer, in the context of the FoFA amendments there is something very odd going on. Following the Senate report on the CBA and call for an enquiry, Corman continued with his intention to proceed with the FoFA amendments, probably by regulation to avoid legislative debate. He has also downplayed the very obvious need to investigate the banks further, relying on a dissenting paper by a Liberal Senator as having greater weight than the majority committee.

    Most informed analysts are calling on the government to abandon their roll back of the FoFA consumer protections but they just won’t budge.

    I smell a rat !

  8. Trevor Vivian

    Along with your article Kaye Lee and after watching the diabolical K Andrews gleefully describing how after the Social services review due later this year ALL benefits will be reduced to the unemployment benefit with sliding scales of support for All who cant work more than 1 hr per week.

    I am beginning to properly DESPAIR at this Government filled with the failed Howard govt political re runs and policies in the race to the bottom.

    I,m 60 years, live on Disabilty support of about $16K per annum and feel as though this Abbott Government will be the cause of enforced hardship beyond my present circumstance from their unfair ideological bent to destroy a once proud and fair country so that corporate thieves and political spivs can retire with the spoils stolen from ordinary Australians.

    What is the remedy? And 2 more years till an election.

    Export Abbott not Refugees.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Read what a man who knows from the inside says

    “But Australia’s fair go is today under threat from a new source. To be blunt, the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy. We see this most obviously in the ferocious and highly misleading campaigns waged in recent years against resource taxation reforms and the pricing of carbon pollution. The infamous billionaires’ protest against the mining tax would have been laughed out of town in the Australia I grew up in, and yet it received a wide and favourable reception two years ago. A handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia’s future to satisfy their own self-interest.

    So I write this essay to make a simple point: if we don’t grow together economically, our community will grow apart.”

    https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/march/1344425290/wayne-swan/001-cent-rising-influence-vested-interests-australia

  10. darrel nay

    Thanks Kaye Lee,

    You are prolific Kaye and your work is fantastic.

    When our investment houses and miners seek access to foreign markets (like PNG, China or Africa) we are told, in effect, you show us yours and we’ll show you ours. In this way the citizens of every nation are robbed in the fashion you described. Australian super funds and investments are lightly sprinkled with the offshore profits and in this way protest is limited. Compared to say the average citizen of PNG, the Australian citizen probably does marginally better – pity them.

    Many of us remember when almost all the eat-out options,hardware stores or cinemas in Australia were provided by small family businesses but then entered the corporates who drove small enterprises almost into extinction – and this process continues. If we don’t choose as individuals to avoid the corporates wherever possible we may soon find that the only business ‘culture’ is that of the corporate miners.

    Thanks again Kaye and commenters

  11. John Lord

    Wish I had your skills of research Kaye. And the patience.

  12. DanDark

    So do I John L, Kaye Lee has an analytical brain
    Wish I did, but cant help bad luck can I 🙂

  13. Kaye Lee

    It takes all kinds to make a world. I think my family would prefer if I had some domestic skills….sadly I do not.

  14. Trevor Vivian

    The article by Wayne Swann that is linked to your comment Kaye Lee was written 2 years ago.
    Much has changed in the Australian landscape since but the central pionts regarding society, middle class, economics, vested interests and politics remain valid and tomely.

    The issue today is a government hell bent on radically altering the Australian landscape to achieve what has always been central to the battles between capital and labour with a decided bent to Capital over any notion of fairness.

    In effect the flaw in abbotts Australia is that after Abbott eats the young(paraphrase) then Capital has to eat itself.

    Capitalise the profits and Socialise the loses is the Capitalists cunning new world order and the Labour side of the Arguement get to rifle through thr remnant remains unless there is a movement borne soon to continue the age old arguement of Capital and Labour.

    Abbotts not the one to provide direction. His is a venal, viscous, craven direction that give power to the political spivs and corporate thieves to reign supreme.

    Export Abbott not Refugees.

  15. Kaye Lee

    “Capitalise the profits and Socialise the losses”

    Yup…that sums it up nicely.

    I thought it interesting to hear Wayne Swan’s perspective from the time. I have never understood why they caved in to the miners. (and yes I remember the advertising campaign using the folksy country guy who seemed more like an actor playing an American cowboy than a bushie).

  16. Kaye Lee

  17. iggy648

    I don’t think we should let miners get away with lumping royalties together with taxes. Royalties are the price they pay for the raw materials they buy from us, the owners. This is no different to any other business.

  18. Trevor Vivian

    Thanks for the reply Kaye.

    Too many focus groups along with the rump of Labor Qland focussed on stepping Rudd aside once he won power so that “real” unionists can seize control of the treasury benches.

    This rump is the death of Labor.

    Export Abboty not Refugees.

  19. Kaye Lee

  20. Kaye Lee

    Doc Neeson died from a brain tumour in June. He spent his last days fighting against mining. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the Angels live and partied HARD. Let’s help Doc and Leo and all the other people doing their thing to remind the world what is right.

  21. guest

    The really good thing is the way Kaye Lee gives details and facts in such an accessible form. She presents a good case for saying we have been fore-warned.

    Hopefully few of the projected attacks on the poor and disadvantaged will survive to be implemented. If they are, there will be chaos and rebellion such as we have never seen before.

    Take for example the notion that Govnt will dictate how the dole is to be spent. It calls itself “small govnt”, but in fact it is a tyrannical dictatorship.

    And still to come is the closure of the car industry and a deluge of misery.

    I am dismayed that anyone has the foolhardiness to support this crowd, twice rejected, now recycled – to the detriment of all. Make no mistake: we will all, for and against, be hurt by these ideological clowns.

    Unless they are stopped in their tracks. Aussie Spring?

  22. Mike Stasse

    Good thing Peak Mining is coming soon hey Kaye Lee……..!

    Great article this one. Thanks.

  23. DanDark

    Who can forget, no way, get f— ked, f–k off 🙂
    Was best song ever written in its time…..

  24. DanDark

    😉

  25. JohnB

    When I view the celebratory hugging LNP cheer-scrum (lead image above) I get a sickening feeling of disgust and shame – it is so sad to see in our National parliament the “Miners” team cheering a devastating ‘own goal’ by Australian citizens.

    I hope others can forgive the treasonous myopic fools, because I can’t.

  26. Pingback: Lest We Forget: profits before people | Glimpsing Utopia

  27. abbienoiraude

    So much information to digest from all sides.
    Thank you Kaye Lee, for your amazing output of exposes and links.
    So little time so much horror being piled upon us by the greedy few.

    Being 60 and a carer for my 61 year old disabled man, I fear we are running out of time, energy and ability to fight much longer. Is that the plan ..to keep us attacked on all fronts so to make us compliant?

    Exhaustion is part of being disabled and a carer. They are cutting more than our payments. They are cutting our ability to keep on fighting, for most of our time ( like Trevor Vivien mentioned) is spent on dealing with ‘enforced hardships’.

  28. Lee

    “Mining companies are also unreliable employers. They quickly sack employees, often on the basis of what the resource market is doing, because profit is paramount.”

    Any idea how we could find out how many deaths occur in mining accidents, compared to deaths on the job in other industries? There seems to be a lot of serious accidents on mining worksites and those are just the ones that are reported in the media.

  29. Jan Wynd

    There has not been a lack of money being thrown around in the mining industry, if the workers had been smart, they would have set themselves up for life with the big wages miners receive, compare this to the people on disability support pensions, who will be thrown into the workforce as their pension is going to be abolished…..where are all these thousands of jobs waiting for the disabled to take on, surely out of work miners will get first preference anyway

  30. geoffreyengland

    And in further news the Unsocial Disservices Minister Kevin Andrews has announced that sight and hearing impaired people will have their sticks and hearing aids removed from them.
    “These “leaners” are clearly rorting the system… they can walk, they can use their hands and legs…..let them work. There’s a huge call for people to work in factories putting the hole in the end of toothbrushes….. job snobs will be treated harshly. If you can hold a spoon and put food in your mouth you are not disabled or sick.”
    Andrews later revealed that he himself was disabled but still continued to work for a living. “I am intellectually disabled, I have serious mental issues, as have all the front bench but you don’t see us holding our hands out for benefits. We work long hard hours, despite our incapacities.” the Minister for Unsocial Disservices said.

  31. abbienoiraude

    @geoffreyengland

    Indeed they DO have their hands out for ‘benefits’.
    Who pays for their meals out at Portia’s in Canberra City?
    Who pays for the cigars and bottles of red and holidays in the sun/snow and for their family to fly?
    Who pays for the jet Abbott has commissioned?
    Who pays for the fuel in their planes, comcars and who pays the drivers?

    Who?

  32. trevor

    Kaye Lee

    Thanks for the No Fracking Way vid.

    Now thats heartening to know that there is a growing base of civil disobedience toward the Corporate/Political regime of dig it up at all costs..

    Here in the west with so little known civil disobedience,( apart from obliteration by Methamphet,etc derived from Miners wages) as the Lying promise breaking brain dead Barnett Liarberal Govt of Corporate arse lickers opens the west to Frackers and any other corporate spivs out to dig their fortune at the expense of country and population, all supported by a compliant press of extreme turd polishers outlawing any opposition..

    No Fracking way

    Export Abbott not Refugees.

  33. jeremy..

    I worked as a contractor in coal and I can say it was the most depressing time of my life. Contractors are paid less worked harder and constantly humiliated with the carrot of fulltime employment and the stick of “if you don’t like it leave”. Fortunately I didn’t up sticks and move my family but a lot of others did and have been hung out to dry. Mining needs 457 visas because they pissed off the local workforce (Australian) that are now unlikely to commit to mining again in a hurry.

    With regard to 457 visas, something that should be looked at is workers’ pay from poorer countries. I have heard a rumour that they are paid the same as Australian workers but their employment agencies charge them massive retainers that brings their pay down to what it may be in their country of origin and that many of them work in positions outside of their conditions stated on the visa.

    Nice work Kaye Lee.

  34. Kaye Lee

    Jeremy,

    Gina’s Roy Hill mine is already in trouble with allegations of exploitation.

    “We’ve got a whistleblower who has informed the union that there’s up to 150 to 200 Korean workers who have been brought in, that they are being exploited,” he said.

    “The allegation is that they’ve been brought in to do certain types of work and then they are being allocated other types of work in breach of their visa conditions.”

    Aside from being asked to do work outside their visa conditions, the CFMEU alleges many of the staff are working more than 84 hours a week and being paid as little as $16 an hour.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-04/cfmeu-alleges-457-visa-workers-exploited-by-roy-hill/5367816

    and this…

    “For a start, the migration agent’s dream Aussie job wasn’t working as a professional cook. Instead it was forced labour as a cleaner and a painter, for just $15 an hour.

    But the costs and exploitation were real – $20,000 for ‘‘help with the visa’’ plus another $10,000 for ‘‘permanent residency fees’’. It was forced labour or deportation, with nothing to show for it but crippling debts.”

    http://workinglife.org.au/2014/03/17/the-457-visa-rorts-keep-coming/

  35. Joe Primativ

    It remains to be seen if the Coalition will over reach itself and be voted out at the end of its first term. VOTE PEOPLE VOTE!!

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