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Mining for truth

Digging for Australia?

Digging for Australia? Photo: Bloomberg

There's a lot of stuff I don't know - as I'm regularly reminded in emails from readers - but one of the things that has really, really confused me for the past couple of years is the Mining Tax .

Now, correct me if I'm wrong: on one side we had a bunch of politicians who thought it might be beneficial to tax our massive, billion-dollar mining companies at a higher rate. That way, we the peeps could get our hands on some extra dosh and build stuff like schools, railways, hospitals and maybe the odd double-lane highway up the eastern seaboard (a.k.a. the bitumen graveyard).

Miners already pay royalties to state governments; the new mining tax was meant to spread the wealth. That is, just because roughly half a planet's worth of iron ore sits within the boundaries of Western Australia, it still belongs to all Aussies and everyone should share the benefits of its sale.

On the other side of the argument were the mining companies, who said if we taxed them any higher, it'd mean they'd have to sack Australian workers, close mines and the Chinese would buy their iron ore, coal and copper from someone else.

So the miners spent $20 million on an advertising campaign telling us out here in couch land how we'd be heavily screwed if they (the miners) had to pay that extra tax. It was kind of like a public service announcement, ya know, helping us all out. Kinda sweet of them, really.

Of course, since then, one of the most outspoken opponents of the tax, Gina Rinehart, has been named THE RICHEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD.

Think on that.

Three point six billion women live on this planet and not one of them has more cash than Gina Rinehart. Kids eat roadkill and women give birth under trees and Gina's spewing because she might fall from first place on the table of Unbelievably Rich Arsehats because she had to pay more tax.

Clive Palmer was another dude who groused about the tax and since then, he's decided to spend some of his spare cash on building animatronic dinosaurs and a replica of the Titanic ... cos, you know, who needs an MRI in a country hospital if you can spend a lazy couple of hundred million on a fat, rich man's version of a billy cart to impress his other fat, rich friends.

Another fabulously wealthy miner, Twiggy Forrest, even went as far as to say that the proposed extra tax on him and his mates was *EVIL*.

"In an interview on ABC Radio, Mr Forrest also said his High Court challenge against the federal government’s mining tax was about conquering evil. All it took for evil to win was for good people to do nothing, the Fortescue chairman said," according to the SMH.

So this is where I get confused. Why did we buy it?

Why did so many hard-working, honest, doing-the-best-they-can Aussies actually believe that ridiculously wealthy individuals and corporations suddenly cared about them?

Once upon a time we were a nation, filled with citizens, and I might have bought this kind of crapola from "The Big Australian" - BHP. But now? Come on.

We're an economy, not a country; filled with consumers, not individuals. That's why BHP has shut down so many of its local ops and moved offshore. It's about them, not us.

So how did some dude who tiles dunnies in Geelong manage to convince himself that Gina Rinehart paying more tax would decrease demand for shower recesses in Victoria? And then tell pollsters he would vote out Labour if they insisted on implementing the tax?

Cos that's what happened.

Thanks to an almost totalitarianly dishonest media campaign, a bunch of fabulously wealthy rich people convinced the rest of us that them paying more tax would be bad for us (please watch that ad, it's laughable). Gina even got on the back of a flatbed truck in Perth with a megaphone screaming "Axe the tax!"

The government then got scared, ditched its leader (Kevin Rudd) and watered down the tax to such a point, I reckon I paid more to the ATO this year than some "mining exploration companies".

Seriously, if you saw this in a movie, you'd throw your choctop at the screen: "How do they make up this unbelievable crap? As if any half-educated citizenry would fall for that sort of con job?"

But we did.

Yes, we have to make this country attractive for mining investors, and yes, the then-Rudd government should have done a bit more talking to, than talking at, the big miners. But the result is now one that befuddles me.

It seems the big miners have gotten all the cream, and the mid- to small-sized miners have been scared off. Whatever the case, the window we all have to benefit from the mining boom is sure to close sooner rather than later.

In that time, we could use some of the hundreds of billions of dollars being torn from our ground to retool our economy. One that's going to be less about rocks and hard hats, than it will be ideas and servicing the hundreds of millions of middle-class Chinese and Indians who are sprouting from the jobs created by the raw materials we're exporting them.

And instead of "spreading the wealth", incredible, world-beating amounts of riches are accruing to a tiny percentage of our population in an almost diabolical inversion of what is "good for the country".

And we don't see it.

For heaven's sake, even The New Yorker magazine, 18,000km away from Perth, has noted the significance of what is happening.

In a recent profile on Rinehart, William Finnegan, makes the observation:

Australia was the land of the fair go - of equal opportunity, and a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. People used to make fun, in the nineteenth century, of the "bunyip aristocracy": nouveau-riche Australians who wanted to settle themselves on top of the colonial social heap. All that is changing. Inequality is on the rise. The share of income going to the top one per cent in Australia has doubled since 1979. 


Gina, Clive and Twiggy must laugh their arses off about how easily manipulated we are.

We had a term for it at high school - "Vegemite mining".

It meant being rooted up the bum.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.


  • Gillard's reversal on the mining tax robbed the country and has done her no good in WA.

    Date and time
    June 10, 2013, 1:26PM
    • @ stephen,

      Your wrong, most WA's did not support the mining tax.

      Date and time
      June 10, 2013, 3:41PM
    • dh, Steven's point is that if Gillard was trying to win favour with voters by watering down the tax, it's done her no good in WA ( or anywhere else).

      Date and time
      June 10, 2013, 6:46PM
    • Forget WA, and leave Gina alone- she's small fry.
      83% of the profit from Australian mining goes overseas, so it's not even Australian billionaires who are making the most of our finite mineral deposits.

      Big Dig
      Date and time
      June 11, 2013, 7:42AM
    • No criticism for Tony Abbott (whose party was paid 3 million in 2011 by mining interests) for his part in opposing the mining tax or large sections of a complicit media who refused to give the case FOR the mining tax sufficient airtime?

      Think Big
      Date and time
      June 11, 2013, 8:40AM
    • The Mainstream Media / ABC work against the interests of the Australian people.

      Date and time
      June 11, 2013, 11:57AM
  • "That is, just because roughly half a planet's worth of iron ore sits within the boundaries of Western Australia, it still belongs to all Aussies and everyone should share the benefits of its sale."

    What planet are you visiting from ? The minerals belong to the state , the state then gives the mining company rights to remove and process the minerals in return for royalties . These royalties then go into consolidated revenue to help run the "STATE" . They do not belong to all Aussies , they never have . Do you understand the meaning of a "miners right" ? It has been with us since Eureka .

    On the other hand are you advocating Nationalisation of the mining industry ? Then the proceeds would go to Government coffers , but hang on ... then the taxpayer would have to foot all the costs associated with exploration , infrastructure , processing etc etc ... this can add up to billions of $$$'s with no guarantees . Ever heard of private industry , they take the risks , they stump up the cash all Gillard wants is their profits because she has spent the bank . The money's gone !

    Methinks you may be another closet socialist

    Do you know what socialism means ? The equal sharing of misery .. ref W Churchill

    Date and time
    June 10, 2013, 1:29PM
    • Christ, whoever you are "Chocshadenough" you are a king-sized nong. What Sam was saying was that morally a person in Perth has no more entitlement to share mining royalties in northern WA than a person in Darwin - or Sydney for that matter. "Suggesting nationalisation'? No. did you actually read the article? Can you actually read? I don't normally slag people off for being stupid on blogs but you really take the cake as a prime example of a clown.

      Date and time
      June 10, 2013, 3:40PM
    • I don't know where to start with all the errors in this piece.

      1) As you state Chics, the minerals belong to the states because the Constitution is silent on minerals, hence it falls to the state crowns and associated legislation.
      2) The royalties collected by states are already redistributed indirectly through the CGC GST redistribution mechanism. They don't belong to "all Aussies" but all Aussies still get a share this way anyway. Therefore the whole argument for the MRRT sharing the wealth is moot to start with. The MRRT was a cash grab, pure and simple.
      3) "Exploration" companies do not pay MRRT.
      4) Coal mining (and soon iron ore mining) is shedding jobs because of competitiveness issues - not much to do with the MRRT (although it won't help). The high dollar (which is dropping, thankfully), high energy costs, high labour costs, and higher taxes are all pushing coal mining (and other minerals) to the brink of being uncompetitive in this country.

      I could go on at length Sam. Email me if you truly have interest in this subject. I suspect you aren't, given that you think Twiggy, Palmer, and Rhinehart are representative of big mining in this country ... that alone speaks volumes. I am astounded at how little the average person understands about the industry ... therein lies the true fault with mining. They should educate the population more effectively.

      Date and time
      June 10, 2013, 3:41PM
    • Now that the big miners have pissed in all of our pockets the answer is to raise the GST to 20% and give it to the states with the only 2 conditions.

      1. The states rescind their mineral rights to the feds.

      2. The states cover the total cost of the NDIS.

      Aussies don't like to be played for fools and it will only take a majority of states to change the constitution.

      Blindsided breakaway
      Date and time
      June 10, 2013, 3:48PM

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