Greens back steeper tax on mining
Greens leader Bob Brown and Senate candidate Larissa Waters at the Queensland campaign launch in Brisbane. Photo: Tony Moore
THE Greens will push for a higher mining tax as one of their top priorities to raise an extra $2 billion to go into public schools and universities.
But Greens leader Bob Brown says even if negotiations with Labor fail to return the mining tax to its original 40 per cent, the Greens will not block Labor's current version.
He said Labor's policy, which would raise $10.5 billion over two years, was better than the Coalition's ''zero''. The Coalition is vowing to rescind the tax.
''You don't have to be Einstein to know that the Greens will be going with the Labor Party alternative,'' he said. ''We will negotiate strongly, inject better ideas into the mining tax proposal Labor has and I think we will get a dividend.''
But Labor is unlikely to agree to the changes proposed by the Greens. A spokeswoman for ALP campaign headquarters referred The Age to comments previously made by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, in which she ruled out a deal with the Greens on the mining tax.
The Coalition is vowing to dump the tax. At last night's community forum in Brisbane, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Senator Brown would be an ''unofficial'' cabinet minister in a Labor government.
Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday in his last major speech before Saturday's election, Senator Brown said the Greens supported the ''mining super profits tax'' as it was originally proposed by the government. As a first step in Parliament, the Greens would negotiate an adjustment so that it raised an extra $2 billion to boost public school and tertiary funding.
This included checking all indigenous children to ensure they did not lose their hearing to middle ear infection.
Senator Brown said to help address teacher shortages, another $320 million over four years would be spent on a teaching scholarship program, providing 3000 teaching scholarships worth $5000 a year for up to five years. In return for a scholarship, recipients would be required to work in a public school of ''high need'' for three years.
Other measures include boosting funding to universities and TAFE, an Asian languages program, teacher mentoring to support young teachers at risk of leaving the profession within the first five years of their careers, and to employ more teachers at trial schools to reduce the workload of first-year teachers.
Senator Brown, whose party is almost certain to control the Senate, also flagged higher tax rates for millionaires.
Ben Jensen, director of the schools education program at the Grattan Institute, said the most important issue in education at the moment was improving teacher quality, and the Greens' proposals as part of its tax promise did not necessarily deliver that.
Labor's initial mining tax package, recommended by the Henry tax review, proposed a 40 per cent tax on mining profits over a return of 5 per cent. After a bitter public debate a deal was struck between Labor and mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata last month, lowering the tax rate to 22.5 per cent on profits over a 12 per cent return.
Senator Brown also put forward two other proposals, a parliamentary budget office to provide economic advice to Parliament and an international ban on the manufacture of asbestos.
He also used the speech to hit out at the major parties for inaction on climate change, and reiterated the Greens' support for gay marriage and a national dental healthcare scheme.