Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey: "I have never heard of a tax that doesn't raise a dollar." Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Coalition has labelled the mining tax a failure and a new low in public policy, amid reports it has not raised any money in its first three months.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters in Sydney today that the "grand mining tax" was a failure.

"I have never heard of a tax that doesn't raise a dollar," he said. "This is a new benchmark in public policy."

Mr Hockey's comments follow reports that first-quarter mining tax receipts, due on Monday this week, showed Australia's three biggest miners - BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata - made no payments.

It was estimated that BHP and Rio alone would provide between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in MRRT payments in 2012-13.

Earlier this week, the Coalition criticised the government for bringing forward its mid-year budget update, claiming Labor was trying to avoid using the lower than predicted mining tax data.

According to MYEFO, the mining tax is due to raise $2 billion this financial year.

Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Brisbane today that he could not talk about individual companies and their tax affairs, but said the government stood by its forecasts.

He explained that the mining tax was designed to deliver revenue when profits and prices were high.

"When they go down it doesn't necessarily deliver the same amount of money," Mr Swan said, adding that ion ore and coal had crashed in recent months.

"You can't take one particular quarter and claim that it is representative of the whole year."

The Treasurer also dismissed his counterpart's claims that the government had been tricky with its MYEFO timing.

"Mr Hockey's behaving very strangely at the moment," he said.

Addressing reporters in Sydney this morning, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the mining tax was a ''lose-lose tax''.

''Only the Labor Party could introduce a confidence-destroying, investment-destroying tax and then not raise any money.

''I mean this is the extraordinary feature of this monumentally incompetent government that they can have the the worst of all possible worlds.

"They can introduce a new tax which does massive damage to our reputation overseas, which does massive damage to investor perceptions of Australia and so botch it, that they get no revenue from it. Yet the spending associated with the mining tax continues apace.''

However the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, played down the report, the mining tax was not a policy failure.

''It was aimed at the Australian community getting a share of record commodity prices when they do exist. It's the nature of the mining industry that we go through peaks and troughs," he said.

Mr Ferguson said the real concern for the industry is the increase in royalties by state governments.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry attacked the timing of the tax, labelling its implementation a flawed process.

The chamber's director of economics and industry policy, Greg Evans, said the government had rushed the tax, and as it turned out the mining boom had peaked earlier and lower than expected.

"Certainly I think timing hasn't been in favour of the government on this one," he told ABC Radio.

Today, Mr Hockey also told the government to stop pretending it would reach a surplus, which was downgraded from $1.5 billion to $1.1 billion in this week's budget update.

"The surplus is gone," he said. "Let's stop the charade."

This comes as a high-powered government advisory group has failed to come up with a plan to cut the company tax rate.

Mr Hockey told ABC Radio that the business community had "walked away" from the government.

"I have never seen such a failed relationship as that between this government and the business community in Australia," he said.

With Dan Harrison, Peter Hannam, AAP