License article

There's no such thing as a free lunch when everyone wants a piece

Everyone wants a piece of Ken Henry.

The mining magnate and vocal critic of the resource super profits tax, Andrew Forrest, bent the Treasury secretary's ear during Wayne Swan's post-budget press club address yesterday.

Today, the Opposition will move in the Senate that Dr Henry, the architect of the tax, cancel an overseas holiday so he can be grilled by a parliamentary committee.

The government said yesterday it would cancel billions of dollars in policies should the Senate defeat the resource super profits tax.

Mr Swan vowed the early return to surplus of $1 billion for 2012-13 would not be jeopardised by the failure to implement the mining tax, which the budget says will raise $3 billion in 2012-13 and $9 billion the year after.

The revenue has been earmarked for such policies as superannuation top-ups, company tax cuts, tax cuts on interest earned on bank savings, infrastructure spending, and simplified tax returns.


Without the tax funding these measures, the budget would remain in deficit for at least two years longer.

''If that doesn't pass, those economic reforms don't go forward. But the budget is still in surplus,'' the Treasurer said yesterday.

He said the increase in the superannuation guarantee from 9 per cent to 12 per cent, which is partly funded by the tax, would also be dropped.

The legislation will not be presented until next year, after the election, but the threat will be used against the opposition throughout the election campaign.

Today, the Liberals will move a motion in the Senate demanding that Dr Henry appear before Senate estimates hearings starting early next month.

The Coalition wants to grill him about his Henry tax review as well as the budget.

It is understood Dr Henry shares the view that if the mining tax slows new investment during a boom, it will help prevent the economy overheating, a view similar to that of the Reserve Bank deputy governor, Ric Battellino.

Dr Henry typically appears before the Economics Legislation Committee during estimates but the Herald has learnt he advised the committee yesterday he would be overseas on holiday and unable to attend.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, who also met Mr Forrest yesterday, will give his response to the budget tonight and will have to outline alternative economic policy and a path to surplus.

He said yesterday that he will announce the Coalition, if elected, will abolish many of the measures to be funded by the mining tax. He is expected, however, to keep tax cuts on savings interest and the no tax return option. Expenditure restraint, not new taxes, was the high road back to surplus, he said.