Federal Politics

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Tax revenue shortfall gives opposition a few nuggets

Say what you will about the allegedly nefarious deeds of the NSW Labor Party, at least some of their former members allegedly know how to profit - and allegedly handsomely - from a mining boom.

The same, it seems, cannot be alleged of their federal counterparts, who appear to have whoopsed-up the mining tax to the extent that it has raised only $126 million in its first six months of operation.

The tax was supposed to raise $2 billion this financial year, a figure which looks as likely as a Christmas-in-July party at the Obeid family lodge in Perisher.

Just as former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald sat down in the rooms of the Independent Commission Against Corruption to answer questions about his alleged rorting of a coal mining lease tender process over Obeid family holdings at Mount Penny, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, was facing a very different kind of mining grilling.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, opened with an inquiry to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who sat coolly at the parliamentary table dressed in an oatmeal suit and matching pumps.

''Does the Prime Minister still have confidence in the Treasurer?'' he asked, un-blinking.


Gillard flicked the switch to withering. ''I know that the Opposition is desperately trying to pretend that the Leader of the Opposition is interested in economic matters,'' she began.

''But I say to the Opposition leader if you are trying to do this, don't come in and criticise the person, deal with the facts.''

La Gillard then made a valiant effort to throw the mining tax issues back on state Liberal governments, who, she implied, are gouging the resources rent tax by increasing state royalties.

Undeterred, the Opposition continued to ask questions of Swan, on the administration costs of the tax and on iron ore spot prices. Liberal MP Tony Smith held aloft a $5 note and a 50ยข coin - the amount, he said, the tax has so far netted for each Australian.

The Treasurer and the Prime Minister stuck to the line they were in negotiations with the states over royalties, which, they said without a shadow of a blush, were inefficient taxes.

Into this otherwise dreary question time rollicked a smiling Kevin Rudd, whose personal jolliness seemed augmented by every mining tax question that went the Treasurer's way.

Elsewhere on the backbench, the mood was gloomy. Charged MP Craig Thomson asked a question about a regional airport servicing his electorate. He and his fellow independent Peter Slipper sat together in their cloudy section of the House. It looked lonelier than a departure lounge.

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